On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" (Luke 10:25-26)We can see from this that the expert in the law quoted Moses' commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5. Then Jesus validated that this quote was correct:
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:28)
Jesus also quoted this teaching by Moses
Jesus also quoted Moses directly at another time. Jesus quoted Moses as a result of a different yet similar question:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matt. 22:35-36)
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" (Mark 12:28)And we see Jesus' answer is basically the same in the other two Gospels:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matt. 22:37)
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’" (Mark 12:30)
To inherit eternal life
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)Does it matter whether or not Moses or Jesus said "strength" or "mind" or both? No. The statement is clear - Jesus is quoting Moses practically word for word. This is the greatest commandment. And this is the most important commandment. And this is what one must do to "inherit eternal life" - equating "life" to love for God.
This was also expressed by Jesus when he said: "“Let the dead bury their own dead..." (Luke 9:60)
And we find that Moses did not just state this "most important commandment" just once. He stated it over and over. He made his message very clear:
"Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut. 11:1)
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul—" (Deut. 11:13)
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him—" (Deut. 11:22)
"...because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to Him—" (Deut. 19:9)
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws..." (Deut. 30:16)
"...and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life..." (Deu 30:20 )
And we find that Moses' disciple, Joshua, also passed on this teaching:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
"So be very careful to love the LORD your God." (Joshua 23:11)
and David also taught this instruction:
"Love the LORD, all His faithful people!" (Psalms 31:23)So we find this instruction as not only the primary instruction according to Jesus, but according to Moses and the rest of the lineage of Prophets.
But why? Why is this the most important teaching of Jesus and the Prophets?
Just look around.
Everyone is looking for love.
Everyone is looking for the perfect loving relationship. We are looking for someone we can love who will also truly love us in return.
This search is in fact, our primary concern throughout life. From the time we come out of the womb to the time we leave our bodies at death we are on the prowl for love.
This is why we do so many things. When we are babies we cry for the love of our parents. When we are school children we strive for love as we want our classmates to like us and accept us. We seek love as we go to dances, or seek that boyfriend or girlfriend. We strive for love as we play in the schoolyard or act out in class.
As we get older we strive for love as we seek to succeed in some sport or art form. We want others to like us and appreciate us. We strive for love as we go to parties or nightclubs, looking for love and the acceptance of our friends.
When we get out of school we strive for love as we try to position ourselves in society with our careers. We strive for love as we want to drive the coolest car. We strive for love as we seek our wife or husband.
Even when we find that husband or wife, we continue to strive for love - as our husband or wife doesn't quite satisfy our need for love. Many strive for love and have children - seeking loving relationships with the children of our bodies - thinking they belong to us. Some may seek love outside the marriage as they cheat on their spouses, join a club, or get a pet.
As our bodies get older we strive for love as we seek to hang on to our relationships with the grown children of our body. (Which is often difficult.) And/or we strive for love with the grandchildren of our body.
While our bodies change dramatically from childhood to elderly adult, only one thing is constant: The fact that we are continually seeking love.
Just about every art and media form is about love. Love stories pervade novels, movies, television. Love songs pervade the airwaves. We are all about love. Love is our thing. Practically every top-selling pop song is about love or about losing a love - "all you need is love" and so forth.
Why is love so important to us?
Because love is an inseparable part of us. We need it. We have to have it.
But - we never seem to be satisfied with the love we find in the physical world. Even those who believe they have found their "soul mate" and marry them will, after some time, begin to lose that "in love" feeling they once had. They might still feel love for the person, but it is not the fresh love that everyone seeks. For this reason, we will seek love elsewhere as described above.
Most people will simply wander from one worn out relationship to another, looking for that fresh love.
And even if we were to somehow keep our loving relationships fresh over the years, we will still lose those relationships when our body or the body of the one we love dies. Then they leave us behind. We might still feel love for them, but because the foundation of our love was the physical body - the body's death makes it impossible for us to continue to exchange that love.
When this happens - when one of the couple or family dies - this typically either leads to depression or we have to go out and try to find another love - another person who will ultimately also die or otherwise leave us.
In other words, the love we find here in the physical world not only does not satisfy our craving for love. It is also temporary. It doesn't last.
What we seek is permanent fresh love. Why?
Because this is how we were created. The Supreme Being created each of us spiritual persons - not the physical body - with the purpose of exchanging a constantly fresh loving relationship with.
God created us with the purpose of exchanging a dynamic, continually fresh loving service relationship with Him - the greatest, most attractive, most lovable, most kind, most gentle, most gracious, most thoughtful and most playful funny witty Person. He is the Supreme Person - that perfect person and soul mate we are always looking for.
This is why we were created - and thus, our purpose for existing.
So what happened?
First, real love requires the freedom to love or not to love. No one can be forced to love. The Supreme Being needs us to decide by ourselves if we want to love Him or not. And those who decide not to love Him are allowed to get away from Him. Those who decide they don't want to love Him are given temporary physical bodies and the opportunity to get away from Him and not have to see Him or even accept His existence.
Okay, just imagine if you were in a loving relationship with someone who suddenly decided that they don't want to be with you anymore. What do you do? Do you force yourself upon them? Do you chain them to your bed and make them hang around you?
Of course not.
If you are a sane, rational person you will let them go. You may be broken-hearted, but you will nevertheless let them go. If they are living with you, you will help assist them in moving out.
Now, what if you also support them? What if they needed your money for support, but still rejected you? This might be the case, for example, in a parent-child relationship. Assuming you had the ability to, you would probably set them up with their own place to live, far away from you. You might still pay the rent or buy the place.
In this case, you will still give them their space, right? You wouldn't force your way in the door just because you were paying for the place right? That would be rude and mean. If you were kind you would not visit unless they invited you. You would not bother them or intrude upon them. If you truly loved them you would still pay the rent but still give them their space. Right?
This is precisely what the Supreme Being is doing. We rejected Him so He is giving us our space, and not intruding upon us. He gave us these temporary physical bodies, and this different dimension - the physical world - which is designed to block our ability to see Him or otherwise be in touch with Him. In this way, He is accommodating our wishes to be away from Him.
Unless of course we sincerely decide we really want to return to our relationship with Him. Then He begins to open Himself to us again.
It may not be all of a sudden, however. Just as in any broken relationship, there needs to be a rebuilding of that relationship. This is often a gradual process, where trust is re-developed and so forth.
In the case of us and God, it is not that God cannot see our hearts and know where we are with things. But we need to be sincere and serious. He needs to see that we are seriously wanting to return to His loving arms and not just trying to get something from Him.
This is often the case as someone who has been living a self-centered life begins to re-develop their awareness of the Supreme Being's existence. They will often see Him as the Genie - the order-supplier. We ask Him for stuff and He goes and gets it for us. So our prayers may be filled with, "can I please have this and can I please have that."
This is not a loving relationship. This is a usury relationship. God is being used for His position of authority over the physical world.
Yet this is the relationship that so many ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers encourage us to have with the Supreme Being. They encourage us to ask Him to heal our leg, or get us a job or make us rich. This is not the teaching of Jesus, nor the Prophets as indicated clearly above.
And this is not the relationship that we are looking for either.
It is rather ironic and sad actually - how so many of us will scramble around our entire lives looking for that special person to love, but when it comes to dealing with God, He is simply someone we ask to get stuff for us.
We will even go to the ironic extent of asking Him to help us find our soul mate - praying to Him to help us find someone else to love.
It is like driving up to a gas station and asking the attendant where the nearest gas station is.
And yet we still find - even after we find someone who wants to exchange a loving relationship with us - that we have expectations that are unrealistic. We expected the person to be that special person for us. We expected them to be, well, perfect. In the beginning of the relationship we expect the person to be wonderful - kind, generous, thoughtful and so on. But then after hanging out with them, we find they aren't so wonderful after all. And we find they are a bit selfish, and not always very thoughtful. And over the years, as their body gets a little older or fatter, we find they aren't so attractive either.
We may even find, after awhile, that they are someone we actually abhor - we just didn't realize it in the beginning because we were so blinded by this feeling we had that we finally found someone.
So why did we have all these expectations of this person? Because deep within us, the person we are looking for is perfect. Our true soul mate is always kind, always thoughtful, always loving, always caring, and always attractive.
Why else would we have this unrealistic expectation about our soul mate? Are we just stupid?
No, we may be naive about people on this planet - but each of us knows deep within - and this is why it is a popular saying - that there is someone special "out there" for me.
So where is "out there"?
It is so comical, actually. The Supreme Being is right here, next to us. He is so close with each of us, but we do not see Him because we want to be away from Him. Through His super-abilities, He is able to expand Himself and be right next to each of us. (Referred to often as the "Holy Spirit.")
So while we are running around looking for love, the Perfect Person - our Soul Mate - is right next to us, waiting patiently.
And it is this very reason that Jesus taught, Jesus' teacher John the Baptist taught, and Jesus instructed his own disciples to teach:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:2)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt. 4:17)And Jesus told his disciples:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)Yes, the spiritual realm - God's kingdom - is near. It is close. It is nearby. This is not about the end of the world. This is about the Supreme Person being close by - near enough for us to reach out to Him and connect with Him. Close enough to ask Him if we can return to our loving relationship with Him.
This is what John, Jesus, and Jesus' disciples were trying to teach, along with love for the Supreme Being.
What is this teaching? Let's consider it carefully:
" 'Love the Lord your God..."
Notice first that Jesus and Moses say "your God" here. The Supreme Being belongs to each of us. He is not the God of the Jews or the God of the Christians or the God of the Hindus or the God of the Muslims or the God of this religion or that sect. He is my God. He is your God. He has a distinct and unique relationship with each of us. This means that the love is to be extended personally - from me to my God. From you to your God.
"...with all your heart"
This gives context to the idea of love for God. Love for God isn't a passing emotion. It means diving in with everything. It means giving our life to the Supreme Being. A person who loves someone with all their heart is fully committed. They are caring about that person. They are living for that person. They will give themselves to please that person. Their heart is "all in."
"...and with all your soul"
This word "soul" is translated from the Greek word ψυχή (psychē), which means, according to the lexicon, "the vital force which animates the body," "a living being," and "an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death."
So we see that the "soul" is not some sort of organ or part of us - it is who we are. Beneath this temporary physical body, we are the living being - the soul.
And it is this inner being - who we are beneath the false identifications we have related to the body (our age, our sex, our skin color, our hair color, our job, our role in the family and so on) - that needs to place our love upon the Supreme Being. "All your soul" means to give up our false identifications with the physical body and love the Supreme Being within the spiritual context.
"...with all your strength"
This refers to rendering whatever we have available to us in the loving service of God. Loving God is not just an emotional thing. People can get pretty emotional too - crying and so forth. But if that supposed love doesn't come with loving service - activity that is pleasing to the one we love - then it is just sentiment. It is not love.
"...with all your mind'"
This relates to desire. We utilize our mind to focus on those things that we hold most dear to us - our desires. If we are loving someone, then we are desiring to please them. Our desires become one and the same with their desires. This has also been referred to by Jesus as doing God's will:
"Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)Jesus sees this - wanting to please the Supreme Being - as all important. It is linked to loving God. We can't say that we love God and not want to do God's will. They are indelibly connected.
Our path towards returning to our relationship with God and coming to love God in this way is not an easy one. Yes, it is difficult, because we are so far away from that relationship now. At the moment all we can think about is me, me, me, with maybe a little bit of my spouse, family or country mixed in. We are so far from loving God it is ridiculous.
In fact, the only way we can come to love God is if we come to know Him. We cannot love someone we don't know.
And we cannot come to know God by ourselves. He has set up the barrier between Himself and us so deep that we simply cannot break through it ourselves.
Only He can allow us to come to know Him.
That means that we have to reach out to Him and sincerely ask Him to allow us to come to know Him and love Him.
One of the facilities He has given us to reach out to Him with is His Holy Names. As has been stressed by the Prophets and Jesus alike, the Supreme Being has given us the ability to reach out to Him by reciting, singing and otherwise calling out to Him with His Holy Names.
This is typical of any relationship.
Let's say that we don't know someone. What comes first? We come to know their name. Why? So we can connect with them. If we know their name and call that name, it indicates to the person that we are interested enough in them to get to know their name.
But God's Holy Names are more than just names. They have the power to purify our consciousness, gradually preparing our ability to re-develop our love for Him.
Should we sincerely reach out to the Supreme Being by calling His Name, and sincerely and humbly ask Him to take us back, He will guide us back to Him. He will allow us to come to know Him again and learn to redevelop our innate loving relationship with our Perfect Soul Mate.