In the Torah or the Law there are 613 commandments. Yet Jesus says all 613 of these commandments can be summed up with just these two: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. How is it possible that these two commands can sum up the entire law? The key is based on the one word that is at the center of each of these commandments: love.
In the English language there is only one word for love, and the context of what is said or written dictates how that word is defined. If I say I love ice cream, that has a different context and meaning (or at least it should) then when I say I love my wife. In the Greek language there are several words for love. For example:
Storge – Is a familial love, like the way a parent loves a child or two siblings love each other.
Phileo – Is a deep affectionate love often held between two friends.
Eros – A romantic love shared between a husband and wife.
The word Jesus uses here to describe love is agape. There are different ways to define this word agape, but I am going to define it as love without conditions or love with no strings attached.
This type of agape love is required because the moment you attach a string or condition to your love, it is no longer love. If love has strings attached, it shifts from being love to being manipulation. Let me give you an example to make this clear for you.
Have you ever heard someone pray in this fashion or maybe you have done it yourself?
A person gets into some trouble or is facing some type of difficult circumstance and they say “Lord if you get me out of this, I will serve you or change my life” … or whatever it is they promise. This is not a prayer flowing from agape love. This is a desperate prayer coming from a place of manipulation. Most of the people that pray these types of prayers soon forget about God when their situation changes.
If we are going to truly love God, with an agape type of love, then our love needs to be like the three Hebrew boys in Daniel 3:16-18:
A love that will sum up 613 commandments is a love that says even if the outcome is different than what I want or what I know God is able to do, I will still worship him. I will still honor him. I will still obey him. I will still love him. This is love without condition that has no strings attached.
If we miss this then we can treat love as a reward system. God, if you do this for me then I will love you back. That is not agape love. Agape is not a system of reward where you give love only to get something in return, and if you don’t get it then you stop loving. That is manipulation.
Agape is a system of expression that says you will give love, even if you don’t always like what comes back to you. Your commitment to love is greater than your desire to get something in return. When this is your motivation, you are in position to fulfill these two greatest commands.
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The reason why these two commandments can sum up the entire Law and the Prophets is because love is an action word. Real love will be expressed or demonstrated by your actions. This is a principle that was established by God himself. Remember this verse:
Because God loves us, he demonstrated it by sending Christ to die for us when we could care less about him. Since God is filled with love towards us, at some point it had to be expressed, and he did this through Christ’s death on the cross. By the way, the word for love used here is agape. However, this expression is not just limited to God. Consider what John said.
What you see here again is that true love is not solely based on what comes out of your mouth, but it is seen by the things you do. Real love must be expressed or demonstrated.
In sales and marketing there is an expression called WIIFM which stands for What’s In It For Me. If we are not careful, we can turn our love for God into a WIIFM statement. When this happens, we can approach God strictly from a transactional basis and look at loving God simply as a means to an end.
For these two commandments to be the greatest, we must get past WIIFM. When Jesus was performing miracles, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, many people followed him. However, when the road got a little tough or he was telling people to deny themselves take up their cross and follow him, then the crowds thinned out. This is still true today. Many will follow and “love” Jesus when things are going well, but when the trials come, they fall by the wayside. It’s like they want the blessings Jesus can give but they don’t want Jesus himself.
If we are loving Jesus only for the things he can give us and not for who he is, then this type of love will not fulfill these two greatest commandments. We must have an enduring love that desires God more than we desire anything God can give us.
There is one final Scripture I want to share with you regarding this type of love.
Let me give a summary of these two verses. No matter what you do, or what you go through in life, in every high place, in every low place, every victory, every failure, when you take your first breath in life, and when you take your last one in death, God will never stop loving you. When you are in Christ, nothing will separate you from his love.
This is agape love, and this is the way God loves us. This is also the way we should love God and how we should love each other. It is this type of love, when it is activated and demonstrated, that can sum up these two greatest commandments. The challenge today is to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself with no strings attached. When you do, you are in position to fulfill everything that God desires you to do and become the person that God wants you to be.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.