Is there any beneficial thing you can do without love in this life? If you think deeply about this question, you will discover that life is not possible without love. So, the greatest discovery anyone can make is to obtain and sustain love.
In the Book of Deuteronomy (6:2-6), we hear Moses instructing the people of Israel on operationalizing the fear of the Lord through the observance of his statutes and commandments. Moses further mentioned that the observance of the law would, in turn, generate long life and prosperity for the people.
But there is something else that Moses mentioned that serves as the foreground for our reflection. He says: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”.
This latter part of the instruction of Moses turned out to be one of the most important transgenerational prayers of the Jewish religion (also known as the Shema), which demands faith in the sole Lordship of God.
Notice that the Shema, in addition to the element of faith, discloses another driving force behind the observance of the statutes and commandments, and that is love: “you shall love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”
The Greatest Commandment
In the Gospel of Mark (12:28b-34), we hear that a scribe approached Jesus and asked an ambiguous question, “which is the first of all the commandments?” The question is ambiguous because the people re-adapted the ten commandments into 613 prescriptions of dos and don’ts, so the scribe wanted Jesus to pick one out of the lot.
The answer of our Lord Jesus takes us back to the Mosaic prescription in the Book of Deuteronomy and gives an updated perspective on the phenomenon of love. Jesus says:
The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord, our God, is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18).
To give an executive summary of our Lord’s answer to the scribe, we could say that there are two commandments; the first is love and the second is also love. Therefore love is the greatest commandment and to love is to fulfill the law as all the commandments are summed up in the law of love (Romans 13:8-10).
Love Settles Everything
The narrative on the question of the greatest commandment is one of the few instances where Jesus had a happy ending encounter with the authorities. In fact, there was a remarkable agreement between Jesus, the scribe, and other people that nothing comes after love.
After summarizing the commandments with love, the scribe responded and said, “well-said teacher,” as he went on to rephrase and agreed to all that Jesus had said. He added that expressing love is worth more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. Notice that nobody dared to ask him any more questions after the instruction on love, and the reason is obvious, love answers all things, and nothing comes after love.
Life without love is a joke. But there would be the need for us to understand that love is not about our fondness or feelings towards persons and things we like. What we often call love is not true love. What do you understand by love?
One of the functional indications of love is that it leads to obedience. Our Lord Jesus said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandment” (John 14:15). St. John would also say, “this is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6). Here, we understand that obedience is a clear testimony of the presence of love.
Love is respectful of the knowledge of God. St. John tells us that whoever does not love does not know God because God is love (1 John 4:8). The only reason to love is because of God, and that is reasonable enough. When we love, we participate in God’s boundless energy, and there is nothing as powerful as divine love.
Love gives and forgives. The best way to understand the love of neighbor is through the facilities of giving and forgiving. Note that giving and forgiving in the foreground of love do not seek a reward or recognition. On the contrary, this is what makes love sacrificial and, therefore, selfless.
Love endures. Wherever it exists, love has no end, and it does not give up. St. Paul tells s that three things last, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13). This is so because everything depends on love to exist. Love endures because it is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4).
At this point, we need to ask ourselves how we can incarnate these principles of love on the two fundamental relationships that are open to us, namely our relationship with God and our neighbors. Remember that love obeys, love accepts and knows God, love gives and forgives, and love endures forever.
God bless you