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The first and greatest commandment of God is that His creatures should love Him.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:38)
To love the Lord God with all one’s heart means to desire nothing but Him and His holy will. The heart is the center of man according to the scriptures and the teachings of the saints. It is the “deepest part” of man, the foundation and guide of his life. What is in a man’s heart, and what his heart desires, is what determines the whole life and activity of the person.
For the inward mind and the heart of man are deep. (Psalm 64:6)
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart produces evil; for out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34-35)
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and they defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)
My son, says the Lord, give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)
According to the scriptures and the saints, man’s heart grows hard, fat, cold and corrupt when it is stubborn and rebellious against God, depriving itself of His Holy Spirit. Many times and in many different ways this is said in the holy writings. (Deuteronomy 6:7, Isaiah 6:10, Jeremiah 5:23, Zechariah 7:12, Mark 8:17, Matthew 19:8, et al.) But when man sins, the Lord still loves him faithfully and purifies his heart by grace in order that he might be saved for everlasting life.
I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God.
Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all transgressions which you have committed against me and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so turn, and live.
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you… I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live… (Ezekiel 11:19-20,18:30-32, 36:26-27, 37:14; cf. Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Isaiah 57:15-18; Joel 2:28-29)
God gives a clean heart and a new and right Spirit to man that he might love Him in return with all of his heart. This is given in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Church of the new and everlasting covenant. It is given that man might fulfill the first and greatest commandment of God. (cf. 2 Corinthians 3-5)
To love God with all one’s soul means to love Him with every spiritual power and with the whole of one’s life. Sometimes the word soul is used as a synonym in the sacred writings for life itself. Man’s soul is his life, all of his life. When one loves God with all his soul he loves Him and serves Him in whatever he does, doing all things “to the glory of God.” (cf. I Corinthians 10:31)
To love God with all one’s mind is to love God’s Word, to serve God’s trust, to delight in God’s righteous commandments.
…I find my delight in Thy commandments which I love, I revere Thy commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Thy statutes.
Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I direct my steps by all Thy precepts; I hate every false way… give me understanding that I may live.
The sum of Thy word is truth, and everyone of Thy righteous ordinances endures forever.
I long for Thy salvation, O Lord, and Thy law is my delight. (Psalm 119)
The love of God with all one’s mind is the “love of the Truth,” and those who refuse such love are those who will perish. (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11) The mind of man is the guide of his life, directed to truth by the purity of his heart. When one loves God with all his mind, he is not “conformed to this world” but proves “what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) He is the one who follows the advice of Saint Paul, and thinks solely and continually about “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise…” (Philippians 4:8) He is the one, in a word, who has “the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16)
To love God with all one’s strength is to be spiritually violent in the pursuit of God’s will, in order to do it.
…the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the men of violence take it by force. (Matthew 11:11)
It means to do everything to please Him, with all of one’s energy and power, to serve Him faithfully and patiently in all things until death. It is to struggle to resist sin and every evil “to the point of shedding your blood.” (cf. Hebrews 12:4) It is to have, once again, the attitude and virtue of Saint Paul.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
…but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way through great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watchings, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 6:4-10)
The one who loves God perfectly is the one who loves Him with the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the “power… made perfect in weakness.” (I Corinthians 12:9)