All the words written in Scripture have a purpose and value, but some are certainly more important and applicable for daily living. For instance, when I was translating from the Book of Numbers in my Hebrew Reading class several years ago, I was literally translating numbers. This chief of this tribe brought this many silver bowls, etc. and one after another they brought the same number. When I began to translate some of the Psalms, however, there was a sense of awe and reverence that came over me. The language is different. All words mean something but some words have more meaning for life than others do.
So, when I read Matthew 22:36-40 and see Jesus answer a profound question; I pay even closer attention than I did to the number of silver bowls. One is a fact; the other is a foundational principle for living.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40, NASB)
When Jesus speaks, everyone should listen. Here he tells us plainly that all of the commandments, and by extension the entire Bible up to this point, hangs on these two commandments. They can be summed up as Love God and Love People. So, how do we live out these commandments?
This is not an exhaustive commentary on how to live out these commandments, but the three basic principles I am suggesting will certainly give you guidance and provide a pathway for growth in living out the commandments to love God and love people.
- Solitude. While corporate worship is vital to spiritual health, so is individual time with the Lord. There are several examples in Scripture of Jesus being in solitude with the Father. The same goes for Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, John, Peter, Paul, and on and on. If Jesus and these spiritual giants needed to be alone with God, then why am I not setting aside regular time for it? Just 15 minutes of undistracted time alone with God each day can make a big difference in your relationship with God, and with other people. Longer periods on a regular basis will be transformative.
- Sacred Reading. Reading the Bible for the sake of gaining knowledge and insight is important, very important. I have read through the entire Bible from cover to cover multiple times. I love to do it, and it has been vital to my growth. At the same time, I have spent a week on a short Psalm or in the Beatitudes or some other short passage. I have meditated on them, prayed over them, and used them as guides to prayer. When I do this, I am not seeking head knowledge I am seeking to be transformed more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. When I read short passages and savor every word in order to be changed from the inside out, I approach Scripture in a more sacred way. The Bible is not an ordinary book to be read for pleasure alone, or to prepare for an assessment. The Bible is written for our transformation and we must approach every moment with it as sacred. Sacred reading will help us to love God and love people.
- Service. If you haven’t spent time in John 13 lately, you may have forgotten an important example Jesus set for us. This is where He washes His disciples’ feet, including a man who would betray Him to His death. In the passage, he sets the example and always states very directly that serving others is part of serving God. Some people aren’t easily served. Some people annoy us, mistreat us, talk down to us and even betray us, but we must seek to serve those most of all. We can serve in small ways, like putting our shopping cart away or picking up litter in the bathroom. We can serve in big ways, like aiding after natural disasters or caring for the sick. The bottom line is service is a way to show that we love God and love people. It should be what we do all day long. There are no shortages of opportunities to serve; we just need to open our eyes.
To recap, you and I can better live out the greatest commands to love God and love people by pursuing three things: solitude with God, sacred reading of Scripture, and serving our fellow human beings. If we will do these three things consistently we will be transformed and those around us will be transformed as well.