St. Paul's Lutheran Church

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Scripture: And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37

Human reason cannot ever understand or fulfill the law of God. That’s just facts. It may know the ‘meaning’ of the Law, but it cannot keep or fulfill it. Human nature is incapable of doing what God requires in this first and greatest commandment, that we surrender our will to the will of God, that we renounce reason, renounce our will, our might, and our power, and say from the heart: “Thy will be done!” You will never find a person who loves God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself. Perhaps you will come across two friends, two family members, or a husband and wife who life together in a peaceful and friendly manner, but even there hypocrisy is hidden and stays hidden until one party is greatly offended. Then you will certainly see how one loves the other, whether they are living by the flesh or the spirit. Even so, this first and greatest commandment, along with the second, requires me to be friendly with all my heart to even he who has offended me.

Hold fast to this commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and meditate upon it. How far are you from fulfilling it? Will you suffer great ill and evil by your neighbor in order to keep it as God demands of you? Will you suffer great discomfort and adversity from the Lord and continue to love Him purely? When God does our pleasure and gives us what we want, then we can easily say, “How I love God so much for He is my dear Father in heaven! How kind He is to me!” But when He sends misfortune or pain, how quickly we hold it against Him and even question His motives. But true love — the love to which the commandment requires — does not act like this. Instead, from the heart and from the lips it says, “Heavenly Father, I am your creature. Do with me as You will, and if it is Your desire, I will suffer whatever misfortune or even die this very hour and do so cheerfully.” But who can love God or the neighbor like this? Thus, the commandment shows us our lack of love and our need for help.

There is no human being who, by his own works, is not condemned for no human being can keep this first and greatest commandment. Since God requires we keep it, we all stand before Him helpless, and we should fear what He is just and right to do. Only God has taken out His justice on His only Son and by His death, our old nature is drowned, and we have been born anew by the Holy Spirit. Jesus has kept this law perfectly for us so that, by His Spirit, we might trust His righteousness rather than our own.