love God, love others, make disciples
A young man approached Jesus and asked Him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment?” Jesus said to them: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus then gave the early church The Great Commission to “go and make disciples”, to “baptize and to teach others.” Matthew 28: 19-20
These 3 priorities are the key components of a simple church, of a Godly life, and a roadmap for how we can be the Church. Click on each title to learn more about the goal of our mission, of all we do and who we are.
Jesus quotes the Hebrew Shema, or Deuteronomy 6:4-5, to answer a man’s question regarding which is the most important commandment “Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”
Each individual word here holds special significance. From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, ‘heart,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘mind’ are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity. The ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ are references to our emotions, wills and intellect. In this way, it represents the Hebrew way of saying that we are to love God with our whole being, with all of our might and strength.
Throughout the Bible, the word for heart (kardia) encompasses the physical, emotional, and spiritual life of human beings. The heart is the source of our feelings and emotions. Feelings like joy, sorrow, depression, despair, happiness, and cheerfulness are all said to originate in the heart.
To love God with all your heart then, means to love him deeply and personally—like the love shared between a parent and child or a husband and wife.
The word soul (nephesh) refers to the entire life of a person—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life. Perhaps, the best way to understand it is that your soul is both who and what you are. If someone were to ask you who you are, you might give them your name. But that’s not very descriptive. If I wanted to be more specific, I might say, “I’m a father, a husband, a pastor, a teacher. Most importantly, I’m a follower of Jesus.” Loving God with all your soul means allowing God to define who and what you are.
Next, Jesus adds a word that wasn’t originally in the Shema. He says to love God with “all your mind.” The mind is the center for intellectual activity. This is where we do all our thinking and learning. Loving God with all your mind implies centering your education on him—learning and growing in our capacity to fathom his vastness and mystery. Studying him until overwhelmed by his power, his love, his grace, his beauty.
And then, Jesus says to love God with “all your strength.” Strength here has nothing to do with the amount of weight you can bench press. It signifies your energy output—your work, your job, whatever it is that you put effort into. Paul eloquently explained what it means to love God with all your strength when he said, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people” (Col. 3:23).
When we put all of these pieces together, the passage explodes with significance. Essentially, Jesus is saying to love God with all of yourself—every fiber of your being.
That’s quite a command. It’s hard enough to love a spouse or children who can be seen and touched. How are we supposed to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? The answer is—we do it with his help.
There is an often-abused verse in the Psalms that says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Many people assume that if they simply show God lip service that he will start giving them everything they ever wanted, but that’s not what God is telling us here. God is saying that if we delight ourselves in him—if we make him the desire of our heart—then, and only then, will he give us what our heart desires. He’ll give us himself. Think and pray more about how you Love God in your life.
When Jesus said, “The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself,’” he was still quoting from the Torah—Leviticus 19:18 to be specific. And this was also an often-misunderstood passage.
During Jesus’ lifetime, Rabbis were often busy arguing over the meaning of the word neighbour. For most of them, a neighbour was a Jew who strictly observed the Law. Other people were hated and considered enemies. Jesus sought to broaden their definition of neighbour, so he told them the story known as The Good Samaritan (which would be better titled The Loving Neighbour), in order to teach them that a neighbour is any person we encounter who has a need of any kind. The question isn’t, “Who is my neighbour?” but, “Am I being a neighbour?” Loving your neighbour essentially means loving the people around you—all of them.
Loving our neighbour is second in importance only to loving God because loving people is really just an extension of loving God. Jesus couldn’t have given us the greatest command without also giving us the second greatest command, because the two are completely entwined. Loving people is the visible manifestation of loving God!
Loving God means loving people. And loving people means going out of our way, rearranging our schedules, or using our resources to meet the needs of the people around us. When you put your arms around someone who needs a shoulder to cry on, you are fulfilling the greatest commands. When you give an unexpected gift to someone struggling to pay their rent, you are loving your neighbour and your God. Ultimately, we love people the most when we share with them the same loving relationship with God that we have.
Loving God entails loving others. The two are inextricably bound—you cannot love God and NOT love others. It is the very depth of God’s character to love, and as believers, our character must reflect God’s character.
Jesus wanted to make it very clear. If we love God, then we need to love others just as God does. That means no filter—no weeding out the people we want to love from those we don’t. In other words, besides loving those who are easy to love, we are to love those we would naturally revile. We are to love the unlovely, the person we least admire, the person that hurt us or our family, the man or woman we have nothing in common with, and the person we dread the most.
We are to love our enemies!
What a difficult thing. Why would Jesus command us to do such a thing? Because that is exactly what God has done for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God loved us when we were not only unlovely, but when we were rejecting Him. And it was this love—His sacrificial love—that saved us in the midst of our sinfulness.
Since the Lord loved us in this way, so we too, as His followers, are to love our neighbour (the sinful, unlovely, and enemy) in this way as well. God, who is love, helps us to love all others as He loves us: generously, graciously, and limitlessly. In the name of the One who loved us enough to die for us, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
Discipleship is that ongoing process in our life of growing to be like Jesus. A disciple is one who is like his Master. Once we come to know Christ we are to follow Christ. You remember that Jesus called twelve disciples to follow him. He took aside twelve men and they were to be with him day in and day out in his ministry. When Jesus left the earth and went back to be with the Father, he left in the hands of his disciples the work of evangelizing the world and carrying on the ministry that he started when he was on this earth. Now the disciples in turn left the work to us. So, today we have the responsibility to continue the work that Jesus began so long ago.
So let’s look at this important lesson today. ”Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sister – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”’ Let’s stop right there and ask the question – does Jesus want us to hate, in the sense of that word, our parents? Well we know that the Bible says that we are to love one another. Over and over again in scripture the Bible says that God is love. Jesus here is using the language of hyperbole. This is a linguistic device used by speakers down through the ages to get a point across. It’s the language of comparison. What he’s saying is our love for Christ must be so great that our greatest love for any person would look like hate in comparison to our love for Him.
He goes on to say that not only must our love for him be so great that our love for our parents even would look like hate, even our love for our own life could look like that. If our love is not supreme for him then we cannot be his disciples. Being His disciple demands that much.
Though familiar with the word “discipleship”, we can be unclear about the concept because it is sometimes interpreted as a devotional time of an emotional character and at other times as a series of studies for deeper religious instruction. Often these two concepts are seen as opposite to one another, each one as encompassing the entirety of discipleship to the exclusion of the other. While both of these traditional answers hold aspects of truth in regard to discipleship, its full meaning is even more than just a combination of devotion and study. For the disciples, Jesus’ call was directed in the words, ”Follow Me.” Are we up to the concept of an all-encompassing definition of discipleship, in which our lives are given to walking with God? We are commissioned to make disciples, directly from Jesus; this is our third part of the Holy Family Mission.
Father Laszlo outlines our new Parish Mission; to love God, love others and make disciples.
Father Matthew shares with us what it means to love God and why it is so important.
Father Laszlo discusses how the first two parts of our mission are connected: loving others is an extension of loving God. If we get this right, everything else falls into place.
Father Matthew explores what it actually means to be a disciple.