Jesus identified our verse for today as being the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-38). It is the greatest one because it is the most fundamental one. Since there is nothing greater than God, the commandment to love Him is the greatest one. The commandment that Jesus identified as being second, “Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39), is second because the object of love is not as great as God.
What exactly does it mean to love God? The Greek word for love used in the Gospel of Matthew has more to do with commitment than with feeling. It is to commit oneself, to give oneself over to something, to put something first. The command to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, then, would mean to totally and wholeheartedly commit ourselves to Him as being first in our lives.
Deuteronomy 11:1 says that we should “. . . love the LORD your God. You must do what he tells you to do and always obey his laws, rules, and commands.” If we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, then we should obey His commands, including the one to love Him. Loving God is to love Him for who He is and what He is all about. Since God is the designer and creator of all things, it makes sense that our love for Him would include our obedience to His requirements of us. Indeed, how could we truly love God and ignore these requirements?
All of us, of course, fall short of the command to love God. Even though we should, we don’t always commit ourselves to Him wholeheartedly, and we don’t always put Him first. Fortunately for us, when Jesus identified the greatest commandment, He was not trying to set up a legalistic standard that must be obeyed, lest salvation is lost in the balance. The greatest commandment remains a commandment, but, for those in Christ, obedience to the commandment is now measured by what Jesus did, rather than what we do---for “through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).