When asked which was the most important commandment, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4,5, part of a passage (known as the 'Shema') which pious Jews recite twice a day. We are to love God with all our 'heart' and 'soul' and 'mind' and 'strength' - not separate parts of us, but a way of saying every aspect of us, from the inside out. Our love for God is not to be superficial, but deep and all embracing.
Why does God command us to love him like that? Surely it is not possible to love to order!
The Bible often commands us to love - even commanding husbands to love their wives. The fact is that love can be commanded, because love is not just a passing emotion. True love involves the will: we decide to give ourselves to the object of our love. It involves the body, not just in affection and love making but also in sacrificial work. It involves our minds, as we think how to please the beloved. Feelings come into it, but are not the essence of love; if the rest is there the feelings will follow.
God wants our love - because he is love, and he loves us, and love by nature wants to be loved.
God wants our love - because he is more worthy than anything else to receive our love. Nothing can compare to him in beauty of being or character, or in the extent of his loving actions towards us, especially through the sacrifice of Jesus.
God wants our love - because he made us specially to be the objects of his love, able to appreciate and to return that love, able to have a close, personal relationship with him.
God wants our love - because he knows that unless we love him with all our being, we will never experience life to the full.
God wants our love - because loving God is the most important thing we can do, and to make anything else a priority would be a slap in the face for him and be disastrous for us.
How can we love God? By choosing to love him, by acting as if we loved him, and by growing to love him as he reveals himself to us through the Bible and life experience.
How can we show our love? In worship, yes, both in private and in public. (It honours God more to honour him in public.) But unless that is matched by obedient living, and by putting God first in our lives, our worship is just hot air or worse. However, if we worship God in spirit and truth, in words and actions, in everyday life and on special occasions, then God has found what he is looking for (John 4:23).
ISSUES AND QUESTIONS
How does the greatest commandment affect the meaning and purpose of our lives? How does it affect our priorities?
IDEAS FOR MEETINGS
'But love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.' (The Merchant of Venice.) Can you give an example of a 'pretty folly' done by a lover? (Yourself, perhaps?)
(You may want to have a session of worship after your discussion time.) Ask the group how they express love for someone. (Flowers, gifts, love letters, touch etc may be mentioned.) Ask if any of these ideas could be adapted to express love for God. Then choose one to do - briefly (eg if writing a love letter, just ask each person to write one sentence and then read them out to God in turn.)