(Deu 6:4 NKJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
(Lev 19:18 NKJV) 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
The "love commandment" of Jesus Christ was derived from the Shema of Israel which became part of the Jewish worship 500 years earlier in the Babylonian Exile. The first passage of the Shema is from Deu 6:4-9, the second from 11:13-21, and the third from Numbers 15:37-41.
In an encounter with a lawyer in Mat 22:36, who asked Jesus a "trick" question of which specific law amongst the 600 Jewish laws was the greatest, Jesus replied to him, the Shema of Israel for which the lawyer would have regularly proclaimed. If Jesus had answered otherwise, the Lawyer would have used the reply to condemn Jesus for failing the rest of the laws.
(Mat 22:36-39 NKJV) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, " '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 great commandment. "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
Similarly, when the Christian Right brings out a clobber verse, there are 600 laws which taken literally and without context, they would not have complied as well. After all, our church dimensions ain't the same as the temple of Jerusalem to begin with. The lawyer was focussing on a specific law, whilst Jesus was focussing on love.
We often hear the Christian Right throwing the OT commandments of the law against gays often totally out of the religious pagan sexual context for which it was written to condemn. The God of Israel was One God, not to two or three other gods that we can go to sleep with for they literally had sex with these gods with the worshippers having anal sex with the temple priests in order to join themselves spiritually and be pocessed by these gods.
When the lawyer came, he called Jesus a teacher, a teacher of the law, for whom the lawyer is boasting that he could fulfilled. Every time, the Christian Right is condeming gays, they are essentially lifting up themselves and affirming how spiritual they are to comply with all the laws literally. Jesus reminded the man, do you love God, do you love others even though you proclaim it every day as part of Sherma Yisrael.
Christianity was to focus on the loving God and loving others fulfilling the initial intention and context of the law which was to remind Israel of the covenant sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ for their sins, and not to depart from God to other religious faiths.
Jesus revealed little to the lawyer despite many Christians considering His reply as a "commandment" and the Holy Grail of their faith. We quickly take this as the summary "commandment" in view of the many seemingly condeming verses in the bible. A God of love for example is said would not permit people to go to hell.
Yet, if we look closely to the Shema of Israel, the first verse declares "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one". In the context of the struggles of Israel against the temptation to worship other religious faith, many of which have a multitude of gods within them such as the ancient Egyptian religion, it is a declaration of a unique and monotheistic God, that has chosen to be associated and be in relationship with Israel.
If Jesus had given the lawyer a direct answer, He would have said that He is one with God, and is God. Surely the greatest commandment is to bow down before the very presence of God in the Holy of Holiest. However, this would be tantamount to a possible accusation and proof of blasphemy by the lawyer. The Lawyer left receiving not any greater insight in love, but a politically correct answer. He has failed to abide by the Law of bowing down and worshiping God.
When Jesus was with His disciples, the Shema of Israel did become a commandment. Jesus said in John 13:34,35
(John 13:34 NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Therefore, the love of God was reflected in the love of that Christ had for His disciples. When the disciples loved each other, they are drawing from the love that God has poured out in their lives. It was not a decision to love God or to love others, but a understanding of "as I have loved you". It is an acknowledgement of a physical reality of Christ, His claim to be the One God of Israel, and His fulfillment of the OT laws of sacrifice through His death and resurrection for us.
We can only truly love, if the love of God reflected in Christ death and resurrection is being consumed in our hearts. We can love because we received God's love first. This contradicts the "love commandment" where we are supposed to first love God with all our hearts, Soul and mind. Instead, we are to behold God's grace and mercy in our lives, that the fruit of the Spirit may be loving and worshiping God with a grateful heart.
Despite repeating the "love commandment" or the Shema Yisrael regularly, Israel did not become more loving even after 500 years and when the Messiah appeared, it wasn't long because they judged Him as a sinner and summarily crucified Him. They had rationalise this action of crucifying Jesus as their "good works" of loving God.
The Lawyer may aslo have been indirectly asking Jesus a profound question of which law to be followed so that he can be sure of pleasing God. Modern Christians likewise are so zealous to do good works to have an assurance of salvation, many of which are contradictory such as limiting gay rights.
Jesus is not asking us to love God per say, and even our neighbours in doing good deeds for God, but to reflect of what God has done for us in our lives, to reflect upon God's grace, mercy and love. When we understand the depths and wideness of God's love for us, totally unmerited, we begin to give grace and mercy to others. We love God because He first loved us.
The Lawyer in Mat 22 was a Pharisee. He came to test Jesus after the Sadducees were silenced by the response Jesus gave on the resurrection. He loved God because it was a religious duty, and this love was realised by following the specific commandments of the law. He would be with those raising the pickets withn"God hate fags" in the 21st century, or throwing and spiting at Jesus at Via Dolorosa on the journey to the Cross. He would have said that Jesus deserved it because He had violated the law on blasphemy.
The religious right is motivated by the religious laws to love God and to love others which only comes out in condemnation and hate against gays, but on the other divide, other Christians focused on love out of their own faith journey and decision rather than motivated by what Jesus Christ has done, and the communion with the One God. Jesus work was enitrely supernatural, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the healings, the feeding of thousands, and finally the resurrection. Many have denied a spiritual reality and only concentrated on doing good social works or conversely, zealously following the law.
What are you motivated by today, Law or Grace, love or hate, judgement or mercy, a secular Jesus or the incarnate of the One God, a resurrected Christ or a Christ still buried somewhere because we do not believe in Satan or the supernatural realm. We say presumptiously that God is everywhere but the Holy Spirit only came out of the temple after Jesus died because we can ourselves become the temple of the Holy Spirit and have communion with God if we chose to. It's not so important whether God is "everywhere" but whether we walk by the Spirit of God or by other spirits including our own carnal self.
What motivates your love for God today? The Pharisees who were bible believing law minded religious zealots killed Jesus, but we are to lift Jesus up higher through loving each other and displaying God's grace and mercy.