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The Rev. Jonathan Redfearn: “The Great Commandments” (Matthew 22)

January 24, 2008

From the Rev. Jonathan Redfearn of Jesmond Parish Church in the United Kingdom, we have an insightful sermon based on Matthew 22, The Great Commandments.  He has some challenging thoughts on the first and greatest commandment, to love God:

Of all that comes to mind when we think of what we’re commanded to do as Christians, how often do we remember that God commanded us to love him? And that this is the first and greatest commandment?

The romantic and emotional understanding of love, which dominates our culture does not make room for the kind of love which can be commanded, and a command that we can obey as a decision of the will.

But the original word for love here in both v37 & v39 is not ‘phileo’, which expresses what you might call friendly affection, but rather ‘agapao’, which refers to the commitment of devotion that is directed by the will and which can be commanded as a duty.

Loving God therefore is a choice we can make and an action we can take. Loving God is an action that engages every aspect of our being. So Jesus says we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, with all that we are and all that we have. Nothing is exempt from obedience to this command. Heart in the Bible is the seat of the will, intellect and feeling – the command centre of the body. The soul has been described as the ‘source of vitality and power that brings strength to the will and focuses all our energies on pursuing all that we know of God’s will and desires’. The mind is the faculty that directs our understanding, shapes our opinions and perspectives, and cultivates our reflections, meditations and perceptions at an intellectual level, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5 and quoted by Jesus in Mark 12) refers to our physical capacities and resources. So what does it mean to love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?

LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART

Loving God with all your heart means you are no longer to be hard hearted and that your heart is not to be divided in its loyalty. As the first four of the Ten Commandments say: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’; ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image’; You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God’; and ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’, ie keep Sunday special for God, putting him first.

LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR SOUL

Loving God with all your soul means loving him wholeheartedly following him all the time and everywhere, whatever the pressures. One example is Daniel who continued to love the Lord, be devoted to him and put him first even when he faced being thrown to the lions.

LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND

Loving God with all your mind means using your intellect in seeking after God, using our God given brains in his service and taking every thought captive for Christ.

LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH

Loving God with all your strength reminds us that this is not an effortless process. It takes effort to put him first each day and to obey his commands.
Essentially loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength means a fundamental loyalty to him. Does that describe your love for the Lord? Or is yours just a superficial allegiance? An outward show only, like the Pharisees?

Rev. Redfearn goes on to talk about what is necessary to obey this commandment, and  how it is possible to have such a love.  This is well worth reading, or you can listen to the sermon here.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. tanaudel permalink
    January 24, 2008 2:59 am

    Nothing like a light, feel-good sermon, is there :)
    Very hard-hitting.

  2. January 24, 2008 9:08 am

    Ha! Yes indeed, this one hits me right between the eyes in some respects.

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