A Practical Explanation of the Greatest Commandment

Posted: 10th October 2017 by Jason Coleman in Love is a Choice

Have you ever wondered what the greatest commandment really means? When you get down to the heart of the matter or the brass tacks, what does it really mean to love God? And how am I supposed to love Him with all of my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength? And how about the 2nd commandment…to love others as myself? What does that look like, in 21st century America (or wherever you live)?

I’ve heard countless sermons over my 35+ years of Christianity and all the years of Christian education, but I never quite heard the explanation to these commandments in as clear and understandable language as I did when reading Daniel Fusco’s book “Upward, Inward, Outward.

Jesus himself said that of all the commandments in the Bible, all 613 of them, these are the most important. So basically, all of God’s instruction for you and I can be boiled down to two things – Love God, and love others in the same manner as we love ourselves.

Pastor Fusco divides the book into three movements, as suggested in the title. In the first movement, he breaks down into common language and understanding, what it truly means to love God through worship, prayer, solitude, and meditation.

One of my favorite quotes in this section goes like this, “God’s joy does not depend on or ensure that everything works out perfectly. It isn’t circumstantial. God’s joy is the disposition of a heart that knows ‘it is well with my soul’ because God is God. This is the joy he shares with us when we come to Him with worship.” Wow.

Another favorite of mine in this first movement falls under the section on prayer. Fusco says, “Most of us, when we pray about something that doesn’t happen, we stop praying. And that’s exactly why God doesn’t usually answer our requests immediately.” That stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been so guilty for a very long time of bringing something to the Lord in prayer, but failing to be consistent and persistent in my prayer and eventually ‘giving up’ on it, if the answer doesn’t come about or it isn’t answered in the way I want it to be. Fusco follows that statement up with, “We know God isn’t a cosmic vending machine, but a lot of times we act like he is. God knows our hearts and our natures, and he wants us to learn to seek after his heart.” My initial response is, “OUCH.”

There are plenty more “nuggets” in the first movement, but you need to discover them on your own. To sum up the section, I loved it when he said, “There’s simply too much at stake to not be people of prayer.”

In the second movement Pastor Fusco tackles the subject of loving ourselves.

To many people, the thought of loving yourself has a negative connotation. You might think that it’s not very Christ-like to love yourself. Only the wicked, prideful, and arrogant people love themselves. But, when Pastor Fusco explained it by saying, “We love and value ourselves based on the finished work of the cross of Jesus,” that stirred something within me that I hadn’t considered before. “At the Cross, our identity is displayed in God’s grace and love.” (Fusco’s words – not mine).

He goes on to say, “The only way to love ourselves in the way that God desires is to see ourselves through the lens of the cross of Jesus.” When we understand who we are in Christ, and we understand our identity in Christ – that our identity IS Christ – we have a better understanding that it’s impossible to “love our neighbors as ourselves” unless we have a healthy love for ourselves. And by seeing ourselves as Christ sees us, redeemed through the blood of the cross, we can accept the fact that we are lovable after all!

He talks about fasting (including the right and wrong ways to do it), intentionally prioritizing God’s kingdom, and the importance of aligning our priorities with those of Jesus. There is so much packed into the second movement I feel that I need to go back through it again, slowly, to absorb all the nuggets I probably missed the first time around!

In the third and final movement, Fusco challenges us with loving our neighbors…all of them.

You’re only a few pages into this movement when he writes about one of the most selfless, sacrificial acts of kindness (besides laying down His life for us) that Christ did – washing the feet of His disciples. Through that act, He taught the disciples – and us – that love means action.

Fusco challenges the reader to find our uniqueness in Christ, and to be who God uniquely made us to be. And, he wraps up this movement by discussing community and generosity – two topics that were important to Christ during His time here on earth.

I have to honestly admit, I don’t finish all the books I read. In fact, so many of the leadership and “religious” books lose me about two-thirds of the way through, because they become monotonous or repetitive to the point of nauseam. But not this one. One thing that Fusco has going for him, other than the fact that he is tackling an extremely important and difficult subject, is his humor and relatable stories.

Without giving away too many secrets, he includes plenty of scripture but artfully weaves in stories of Cheez-its, nasty toenails, childbirth, hairy babies, second graders, and a drummer who interrupted a saxophone solo because it was so awful. Not only that, but he has included some hilarious footnotes that really bring out his personality – including comparing himself to Ryan Gosling – but with dreadlocks!

Daniel Fusco explains, in a way that only he can, the importance of living a life of love, and living it Upward towards God, Inwards as you love yourself, and Outward as you love the world around you.

If you’ve ever heard him speak, you can certainly “hear” him through the pages of this book.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided an advance copy of this book with the hope of an honest review in return.

About Pastor and Author Daniel Fusco

Daniel Fusco is the lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church, which has campuses in Vancouver, WA and in Portland, OR, as well as a large “online” audience. He is a conference speaker, a jazz musician, and the author of Honestly (NavPress) and Ahead of the Curve. He lives in Washington with his wife, Lynn, and their three children.

“Upward, Inward, Outward” is available here http://amzn.to/2i0HQ3L or anywhere you buy books.