It’s a familiar scene. Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, and he answers by saying “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And then he adds the second greatest commandment – “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges points out that Jesus is actually quoting for the Old Testament – back to the Law, Deuteronomy 6:5. And in the context of the Deuteronomy passage, the subject and theme is obedience.
In everyday life, it is not in our nature to obey. We do it for a number of reasons – fear of consequences, fear of retribution, hope for gain or recognition or even escape from recognition. But we don’t obey because we want to. Obedience doesn’t come naturally. And if you doubt that, watch a toddler. Or a teenager. Or an adult.
Bridges recognizes this, and then asks, then how are we to love God? How are we to do something that feels unnatural?
We are to observe God’s commands, keep and them and be careful about obeying them. We are to teach them to our children and constantly talk about them.
Bridges draws n analogy about cruise control and racing. Cruise-control obedience is obedience on autopilot – obeying without really thinking about. Race-car obedience is a total focus on obedience, in much the same way a race-car driver is totally focused on his (or her) race.
“To love God with all our heart and soul and mind,” he writes, “…means to obey Him with all our heart and soul and mind.” And it’s all wrapped up in love – that God loved us first. Because of that love, we respond in love.
Bridges doesn’t mention it, but reading this chapter kept reminding of Paul’s explanation of love in 1 Corinthians 13, what he called “the most excellent way.” The words are as familiar as the response of Jesus to the question of the greatest commandment.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
That is indeed a most excellent way – the way to the obedience – the way to love God with all of our hearts and with all of our souls and with all of our minds.