The Greatest Commandment

This is the tenth in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.

In our worship and in our living, what is most important to God? What does our loving Father want from us and for us? Jesus said it clearly:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40, NIV)

Loving Him completely, with all that we have and are — that is what our Father wants for us.

If loving Him is the sum and center of His desire for us, our hymns should have the same goal. Their purpose should help be to help us love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.

But let’s be specific and practical. What did Jesus have in mind when He said that life’s highest goal is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind? Is He talking about wholehearted worship when we gather together? Is He urging us toward emotional freedom in our worship? Or does He mean something more?

Look at Jesus’ own life. He is our living example (John 13:15). We are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). How did He love His Father with all His heart, soul, and mind? By His words and His example, how did he teach His disciples to follow this greatest commandment?

Read the gospels. Read them hungrily, asking God to enlighten you. You’ll see that for Christ, loving God was far more than telling God how great He was. Worship was not an experience. It was a life. He loved and worshiped His Father through daily prayer, faith, obedience, self-sacrifice, holiness, and patient endurance. He prized His Father’s approval, not seeking His own will nor the praise of other people. Hearing and obeying the Father was His constant goal and source of strength.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34, NIV)

For Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) was a lifestyle. He sought only His Father’s glory, Kingdom and will. He depended on the Father constantly and completely. He forgave all who wronged Him, even His murderers, and He turned away from evil, keeping His eyes on the Father.

The life of Jesus teaches us the meaning of the word worship. Our church services are only the smallest part of it. Worship is 168 hours per week, not one hour on Sunday. Worship is far more than telling God how great He is. Worship is a full life response to Him. It is daily walking with Him in faith, love, and obedience.

That should be the goal of our hymn singing. Our hymns should help us worship as Christ worshiped and walk as He walked, denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily, and following Him.

Our hymns should also help us live out the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said this commandment was very close to the first, and indeed it is. We cannot love God without loving and serving those He loves so much. Our hymns should encourage us and guide us to Christian relationships in our homes, our workplaces, our churches, and in our world at large.

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