Fulfilling the First Commandment

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

Jesus says that this is the most important commandment: to love God with our heart, soul, and mind.  If we obey this command, all the others will fall into place.  Learning what it means to love God is a life-long process.  As a child, I thought I loved Him.  I wanted to obey Him, and Jesus says that if we love Him we will obey Him (John 14:15).  

But love is not fully manifested in obedience.  We see this when Jesus calls the Pharisees whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27).  He is telling them that although their outward obedience has been perfect, their hearts are not loving God.  The inside is not clean.  Clearly loving God with all our minds and souls means so much more than just doing what is right, although that is an important part of love.

Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).  He does not want to throw it out or ignore it, He wants to fulfill it.  I believe that much of this fulfillment is the action of taking what was an outward oriented law and making it an inward oriented law.  The law of the Old Testament was full of physical prohibitions, but as Jesus interacts with the OT law in Matthew 5 He shows how the laws must be obeyed within our hearts and not merely in our physical actions.  

It is not enough to restrain ourselves from murder; fulfillment of that law means we do not even entertain unkind thoughts about any person.  He says that our righteousness has to exceed the Pharisees, who obeyed each law perfectly.  Our righteousness has to extend even to our thoughts.  We have to learn to love God with our whole mind, with every thought.

Just as Jesus came to be the fulfillment of the law for all people, individual Christians each have to learn the fulfillment of the law in their own life.  A young Christian learns the basic rules, whether they are young in age or just new to the faith.  They have to learn what actions please God and what actions He says not to do.  This is the basic Old Testament law.  As each of us matures, we have to allow the Spirit to teach us the fulfillment of the laws.  We have to learn to internalize the law, to obey with our hearts and minds.

If I am speaking honestly, I would say that the majority of adult Christians are pretty good at obeying the outward law.  They know they should not lash out in anger at their children, they know they should not steal, they know they should not break their marriage covenant.  

But I would think that many adult Christians do not know what it means to love God with their whole minds.  We do love Him, we worship Him, we follow His call.  But how many things that would not please Him do we allow to nest in our minds every day?  How many times do we choose to let our minds rest on fear instead of on faith that He will deliver us from our trials?  If we allow fear to take root in our thoughts, then we are not loving God with our minds and our hearts.  

Or how many times do we let worries play out in our minds, as if mentally experiencing the worst case scenario will help us if it becomes reality?  If we let our minds complain about our jobs or the dishes or the piles of laundry or the health struggles or our financial insufficiency, then we are not loving God with our minds. We are breaking the first commandment.

God tells us how to love Him with our minds.  Philippians 4:8 says Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

We are told to bring all our thoughts into captivity to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We are told not to allow worries, fears, complaints, unkindness, lust, anger, hate, or bitterness to take root in us.  If a worrisome thought passes through our minds, we are to love God by taking it captive like an enemy.  We are to push out thoughts of hate and bitterness.  We are to forget the things that hurt us.  

The command from Christ is an active command to love God.  It is work every day to submit our minds to praiseworthy things.  We are to actively work at replacing our dark thoughts with praise, with gratitude, with dwelling on anything praiseworthy and lovely and noble and true.  A worrisome thought is the antithesis of truth because it is a prediction of something that has not even happened.  

As we mature in Christ, we learn more about what it means for the law to be fulfilled in our own hearts.  It means that the laws and rules which once were merely simple actions have to become part of our minds.  That is how we love God with our minds.  

We watch over them carefully, not allowing any thought that is not full of faith in God’s goodness to take root in us.  The more I have learned this, the more I see what Christ means when He says that all the other laws hang on the first two commandments.  When we love God in our minds, and do not allow other thoughts to become part of us, our obedience flows easily to every other part of our lives.  In Matthew 11:30 Christ says “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

He even gives us the instructions for an unburdened life: love God with all the thoughts in your mind, use your strength to fight the battle of good and evil in your hearts, set your mind on things above, cast off all the fear and worry and bitterness and regret and stress, and you will see how joyful and light His burden really is.

Lindsey Tollefson is a homemaker in Moscow, Idaho.