When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-40
Today we tend to equate love with intense emotion, but we also know emotions are fleeting and relationships can’t be sustained by feeling alone. The love Jesus talks about in Matthew 22 is a loyalty, a faithfulness to God in the midst of all life brings us. We get confused when Jesus says to love God with all your heart and soul–to us that denotes passion. A better translation is to love God with your life.
How many of us know the struggle of desperately wanting to feel God, to experience an emotional zing that validates God’s presence! But this isn’t what God’s love is about. God’s love is about loyalty, about choosing to love Israel–and ultimately the world–through stodgy faithfulness even in the face of grumbling, turning away, and outright indulgent sinfulness. God’s model of loving is what we aspire to–not passively waiting for a momentary emotion to appear, but choosing to love the world as God does, with mercy, generosity and steadfast loyalty to our neighbors. It’s loving God with our lives.