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Faith & Wisdom

What Is The Great Commandment? Meaning And Explanation

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In the Old Testament of the Bible, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on how humanity should live their lives.

Most of us know the basic Ten Commandments that were given, such as you shall not make idols, honor your mother and your father, and you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 

But when Jesus came to the Earth, he proposed that there were only two great commandments that we should follow in order to be righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

In this article, we’ll discuss the greatest commandment and what it means to us today.

What is the Great Commandment?

The Pharisees test Jesus in Matthew's gospel by asking: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" As a result, Jesus answers with one of the most familiar sections of scripture, the Great Commandment. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37).

We should reflect on these words of Jesus and understand that everything in scripture can basically be summed up into these two commandments. However, we may realize how impossible it can be to keep God's commandments. 

five of the ten commandments on a billboard

Only God's justification of the ungodly leaves us with hope. 

As a consequence of breaking God's law and failing to keep it, God punishes us righteously. But “God demonstrates His own love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Christ teaches that the moral life can be summarized by the love of God, one's neighbor, and one's self. 

Essentially, the understanding of love in the New Testament is derived from the Old Testament's covenant love, in which God's love never wavers. If Christians really follow the Holy Spirit, they also will never waver in their love for God and others.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Commitment and action towards building a better relationship with God characterize this type of love. 

Moreover, they show our clear appreciation of God's love for each individual and how willing we are to serve our neighbors. When we love our neighbors, we show love to the Heavenly Father. 

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The two greatest commandments according to Jesus

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It’s noteworthy that Jesus Christ summarizes all of scripture into two commandments, which naturally flow into each other.

When asked by another Pharisee how one could “inherit eternal life,” Jesus answered that it’s by keeping these two commandments (Luke 10:25–37). Despite having only two laws to follow, we, like this Pharisee, often justify ourselves by saying we obey the laws rather than taking action to actually follow them.

The most important thing to remember is that Jesus stressed the importance of not only loving God but our neighbors as well. It wasn’t by accident that the second commandment was for us to love our fellow human beings. 

a statuette of Jesus with a heart on his chest

The Ten Commandments are fulfilled in Jesus' Great Commandment as well: “You shall love...God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength....You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

When we live by these words and act on them, we'll naturally obey the Ten Commandments. 

Another important aspect is for us to maintain a healthy and sustainable relationship with God.

We can’t have a healthy relationship with others if we lack a healthy relationship with God. Without first loving the Heavenly Father, with all our hearts, minds, and souls, we can never love another person as the Lord has instructed us.

This shift towards loving your neighbor is perfectly summed up by Jesus' new commandment, right before his death on the cross: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

How to apply the greatest commandment to your life

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When Jesus says to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, you're being asked to love God with your total being. 

In a nutshell, the commandment states that everybody should love their neighbor as themselves and be a good samaritan to one another. All of us are on the same lifeboat together. Besides caring for their neighbors, Christians also need to protect all of God's creations.

Rather than only thinking about our brothers and sisters as humans, we should embrace all of the creatures that share our island home with us. 

silhouette of a man praying by a lake

The love of God extends to all of God's creations. Loving God means loving the creation of everything. Our fragile Earth is a gift from God, and one of the ways to love God is to love the world of nature where God manifests Himself. 

Living simply for the sake of others is an expression of loving God. Jesus tells us not to love God halfheartedly but with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

You don't have to limit Jesus' words to the pages of your Bible. 

Let them fly, energizing you into action. Your life is full of souls in need of your care. You should love and care for yourself and also consider some ways you can show concern for the welfare of others. By doing so, you will complete the chain of love that began when God first loved and created you.

Love is all we need

As Christians, we strive to love God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls.

Even so, we still fail in this regard, which drives us back to the cross of Christ and the hope of salvation that's founded on the righteousness of Jesus’s sacrifice rather than our own merit.

The basis of Christianity is our love for God, which is reflected in all of our actions. In the end, nothing worldly truly matters — not success, wealth, or status. Our true glory will come from how we love God and love others.

For more on the commandments, download the app in the iOS App Store or Google Play.

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