READ: Proverbs 8, Mark 12, 1 Peter 4


If the greatest commandment is to love, according to Mark 12:29 the first commandment is to hear: “Jesus answered him, ‘The FIRST commandment is :Hear O Israel, the Lord our God , the Lord is one.” Proverbs refers to wisdom as pre-created, a person that existed from eternity past. This pre-figuring of Jesus opened the minds of first century Jews to the possibility of Trinitarian monotheism. Proverbs 8:34 instructs us to watch and wait for wisdom, to seek diligently for it (v. 17). First Peter 4:7 reminds us to be watchful in our prayers. When it comes to loving God, we start by listening to Him. We cannot truly love God if we first have not carefully listened to what He has said and then conscientiously obeyed.

We Love God by Obeying Him. In order to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), we must first hear what He is saying. Biblically, hearing God cannot be divorced from obeying what we have heard. In fact, if we do not act on what we have heard, then we have not heard, we have not loved. There is no love without obedience. The greatest commandment by definition demands the greatest obedience. Our love for God is not simply an internalized feeling. Great love for God is acted on and occurs through the energetic employment of hands, head, tongue, and feet in response to what God has told us to do. To love God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength is to obey God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love is proved by obedience. Obedience is prompted by careful listening to what God is saying. Listening to what God is saying requires a determined effort to quiet our souls, to turn off competing voices, and to wait patiently for God to speak. The first commandment is “Hear!”

We Love Others by Preferring Them. There is an ordered sequence to love. First, we hear what God says. Second, we obey what God says, summoning every aspect of our being to attend to His desires. Third, we lay down our desires in order to serve those around us. Hearing, obeying, and loving God is evidenced by hearing, serving, and loving those around us. Even as the first way we love God is by hearing Him, so the first way we love those around us is by hearing them. Too many missionaries and ministers rush by this first command of love: hearing. We serve others in the way we want to serve them. Love serves people in the way they want and need to be served. The rule of loving is to begin by hearing those we hope to serve and listening carefully to how they want to be helped. We do not love others when we serve them in order to feel better about ourselves.

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