It was crucifixion week. Matthew and Mark recorded the story (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). A Pharisee (lawyer and scribe) asked Jesus a profound question that could be referred to as the first law. “Which is the greatest commandment in the law? Which is the first commandment of all?” With no hesitation, Jesus pointed to the secret of unity in plurality, of oneness when more than one is present. To love the Lord our God with all, that is the greatest, the first. Because of who our God is, His image shows that “let us” can be “one” (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24; Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
John caught the dynamic behind the command, “We love him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Moses also made this point (Deuteronomy 7:7). God does not expect us to do something He does not do Himself. This love encompasses everything from righteous living to sacrificially dying. So if His love is the very ground of our love for Him, we should spend more time contemplating what it includes and its dimensions.
Surely this love embraces unity. In fact, as one implies, the fruit of this love is oneness that comes only from unselfishness. And within each kind of creation, this love reveals equality. There are a mutual submission and humility that makes self-exaltation impossible. In relating to lower kinds, this love reveals gentleness, care, and nurturing. There is no hint of exploitation or manipulation.
God does not expect us to do something He does not do Himself.
But does this love also know how to relate to higher kinds? Yes, it affirms that the creature is ever submissive to the Creator, knowing His love is consistent, though not always understood. And the higher kinds of creation are respected for the positions the Creator has given them. (Consider the amazing implications of how to relate even to fallen higher orders of beings taught in Jude 8, 9.)
It should be evident from the above that this first law produces obedience, self-government, and harmony. However, we are sinners in whom this image of God was “well-nigh obliterated” (Education, p. 15). Probably the hardest thing for us to see is that this love actually produces order and organization. We can be incorrigibly independent and individualistic.
So what should we do, inhabitants of a planet where this first law was rejected by our first parents? We must study carefully the character of the One who created us, especially tracing the revelation of brilliant light in the humility and submission of the Son, the affirmation and clarification of the order and responsibility that agape brings, so we can be cured of our innate rebellion with its two extremes of abuse and neglect.
(For further study see Signs of the Times, April 1, 1897 paragraph 4; August 1, 1900 paragraph 12; Review and Herald, June 10, 1902; paragraph 1; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 200; Counsels to Teachers, p. 403.)