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Of Loving God and Neighbor

2015.12.09 - Raeville_St._Bonaventure_transept_window_NJesus stated of two commandments, “There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30). Just how can we tell if we are giving only some of our lives as opposed to all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to God?

One way to see if we are giving all of ourselves to God is found in Jesus’ words in this passage. By identifying the two commands together, He implied that one’s love for God can be evaluated according to how one’s love is shown towards one’s neighbor, a term that extends all people (cf. Luke 10:25–37).

Another way to see if we are giving not some but all of ourselves to God is to see if we can imitate the characteristics of someone who was described as giving his all to God. Josiah was described as such a person, a king in Judah who reigned from 640–609 B.C. “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kgs 23:25; cf. 2 Kgs 22:2; 23:3; 2 Chron 34:31). What did he do, and how can we imitate him today?

Despite knowing that God would judge southern Israel for its sins after his death (cf. 2 Kgs 22:16–20; 2 Chron 34:24–28), Josiah lived a zealously righteous life. He restored the temple in detail (2 Kgs 22:3–7; 2 Chron 34:8–13; 35:1–5) and was personally generous towards this end (2 Chron 35:7). When the Book of the Law was discovered and read to him, he was penitent over Israel’s sin and sought reform for the nation (2 Kgs 22:8–20; cf. 22:19; 2 Chron 34:14–28). He covenanted with God to obey His Word “with all his heart and all his soul . . . And all the people joined in the covenant” (2 KGs 23:3). He undid idolatry as much as he could (2 Kgs 23:4–20, 24–25; 2 Chron 34:3–7). He restored the Passover and celebrated it in a way that had not been so for over four hundred years (2 Kgs 23:21–23; 2 Chron 35:1–19; cf. 35:18).

Josiah’s giving all of himself in his love for God was illustrated by his love for others, which for him was to carry out reform for his fellow Israelites. For us today we see that this love is guided by God’s Word and thus corrects sin, both personally and in lives of others (cf. 2 Tim 3:16–17). This love perseveres, whatever its end may be, and is generous in helping others, especially those in the household of faith (Gal 6:9–10). This love is carried out humbly, thoroughly, consistently, zealously, and with any other virtue the Spirit may yield. May we love God and show this love by how we love our neighbor.

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.