Q. What does the law of God require?
A. Personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; that we love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.
37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
Scot McKnight, in his book ‘The Jesus Creed,’ summarizes this command in this way: “A spiritually formed person loves God by following Jesus and loves others.”
That is what we see in this passage from Matthew. It parallels the Old Testament Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4– 9), and that it lies at the heart of Christian ethics, defining one’s relationship with God (the vertical) and others (the horizontal).
v. 37 And he (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
We should love God with our whole being – it is comprehensive in scope. Notice here, that it is not just “love God” but “love the Lord your God.” The object is Yahweh, the covenant God who never leaves or forsakes. Moreover, he is “your” God, so that one’s love for him is simply the response of one who has already been loved completely and lavishly.
v. 38 “This is the great and first commandment”
Loving God is not only the “greatest” commandment but also the most important, “first” in priority and the beginning of all Christian ethics. The command to love God is framed with “great”, and to it is now added “first” for emphasis. This is the supreme commandment that has within it all the others. In fact, love for neighbor flows out of it.
v. 39 “And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”
This Old Testament reference comes from Leviticus 19:18 and is the companion duty to loving God. Love for others flows out of and is made possible by love of God, both experiencing God’s love and returning that love to God. Followers of Christ cannot claim to love or serve God if they are not loving those around them. Jesus illustrates this brilliantly in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-29).
“As yourself,” means to have as deep and sacrificial a love for those around you as you have for yourself. This is not a “self-disregard” or “other-centeredness” that involves denial of self (that is true of our relationship with God) but rather a consideration and care for others that is a necessary part of Christian discipleship and as a aspect of your love for God.
The answer to the Catechism question concludes with: What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done. That is total obedience. That is what the Law of God requires.
Our love for God is total. His love for us is complete and absolute. Our love from our neighbor flows from this dual reality: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:11, 19-20).
The only one to do this perfectly? You guessed it: Jesus.