What is Required?
In everything that we do, there are requirements. For example, in order to go to school, there are many different requirements based on the school and the age of the student. If it is a public school here in the United States there is a minimum age requirement. There might also be a dress code that must be followed. If you would like to attend a private school there are different requirements. There could be a certain level of grades that must be kept and a certain amount of community service that must be done in order to remain there. The point here is that in everything that we do there are rules and requirements for us. This is especially true when we look at scripture. Our question today has to do with this very subject it asks, "What does God's law require of us?" (Q. 4)
A Summary of the Law
It might be overwhelming to think of all the laws in scripture and what they require of us. Thankfully we have been given a summary of all that the law requires. The catechism answers the question by pointing to the answer that Jesus give the religious leaders when they ask him what is the greatest commandment. "Christ teaches us this in a summary in Matthew 22: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (A. 4) But this brings up the question, how can these two be the basis for all of the law? It is the basis because to love God is to desire to obey him and to love the things that he has created, of which human beings are the pinnacle.
Love Your Neighbor
We are not called to love our neighbors because of some intrinsic value that they have. What I mean by that is that by our nature humans have nothing that gives us intrinsic value. For the value to be intrinsic, would mean that it depended on us. But this is not why human life has value. Human life has value because God has created us in his likeness and image and decreed that we have value. This is why I said above that part of what it means to love God is to love his creations. What also needs to be said on this is that we are to love and value the works of creation to the same degree that God values them. Human life has more value not because we are intelligent or any other such gift that we have been given, but because God has placed value upon us by calling us his image barriers and giving us a role within the created order. In Genesis 1:28 we are given what is known as the dominion mandated or the cultural mandated, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." More than that we are created in the image of God, which while there are many different ideas on what that means, I believe ties directly to this mandate. We were created to be God's special representatives on earth. As such we have more value that the rest of creation. This is why it is so important to love our fellow human beings. Not just the people who are our family or those who look like us, but all the world around us, and especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love The Lord
The simplest way of saying what is meant by love the Lord your God, is to say that we are to put God first. As created beings in general and Christians in specific, we are called to put God first. He is to be the first in priority. Meaning that in everything that we do, everything that we think, and everything that we say, we work for the glory and good of our creator. This is what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."The issue is not primarily the outward works, because those can be faked. How many of you have known someone who for a time appeared to follow Christ but fell away and no longer seeks him? We are warned in the parable of the sower that this will happen. This does not mean that the outward works do not matter they do, but the issue is the heart. A changed heart produces good fruit, an unchanged heart does not. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. This does not mean simply our feelings but means our whole being. That is our thoughts and our emotions. When this is the case we will produce good works. Paul in Romans 10:10 sums up the idea when he writes, "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved." The idea here is that true confession comes from a believing heart. Paul is reiterating the same thing Jesus teaches us in Matthew 15:18 where we read, "the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart."
Have you ever taken the time to think about and meditate on what scripture means when it teaches us that we are to love the Lord our God with all that we are? This is one of the most important ideas in scripture, it is so important that it has been the prayer of the people of Israel since the time of Moses. It is known as the Shema. It goes, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) Do you give thought to this in your daily life? Do you think about the things that you are doing from day to day and ask how this glorifies God? This is what is required of us. That in everything we do we should seek to glorify God. To make much of him and little of us. He is everything and I am nothing. If you have noticed I sign every one of these posts with the words Soli Deo Gloria. It is a phrase in Latin that means for the Glory of God Alone. It was the rallying cry of the leaders of the reformation because they sought to glorify God above all else. Their lives meant nothing to them when compared to the surpassing glory of God. I write it at the end of each of these and many other places besides to remind me that I am to be working for his glory and his alone. There is none other who is worthy of glory.
Soli Deo Gloria