“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Now that seems to make sense if you’re sitting in a church service and a pastor or priest tells you that. After all you’re in God’s house so why would you offend the Host by saying otherwise?! I mean just out of common courtesy you’d agree!
That could be the easiest way to get a lighting bolt between the eyes if you ask me. It would be like telling your grandma you didn’t like her pumpkin pie right in front of your mom. You may get the words out of your mouth, but you are sure to get a handprint on your booty from mom after you do and a mouth full of that pie you all of a sudden really “like.”
Now if this was just a pastor’s one line sermon that he crafted to drive home his point about commitment and dedication to God then I would be ok with nodding your head and forgetting it as you drove home. Heck, I even come up with lines like these for sermons and I don’t remember most of mine for heavens sake! But what if I told you this was more than a sermon in a sentence kind of deal? Would it mean more? Would you take it to heart more? Would it change how you felt about God?
The words we just read were said by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but they date back even earlier than Jesus’ time on earth. You see these words are part of a promise given to the people of Israel by Moses after being freed from Egyptian slavery. Remember, “let my people go!”, Charlton Hesston, and the Red Sea miracle deal? Yeah, back then.
“The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4) was actually part of a daily prayer ritual the Jewish people performed called the Shema. In fact, some families would choose these words as the first Scripture their children would learn and would recited the Shema at a minimum of 2 times daily. Yet we see this idea of loving God singularly used by Jesus, Peter, and Paul throughout the New Testament so clearly God intended this to continue into the Christian faith and stay central to His teachings.
Why is it so important to “Love the Lord your God” and to do so with what appears to be everything part of who you are? The answer is really within the prayer itself.
#1 “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” – The beginning of this prayer establishes the most important aspect of our relationship with God in that we should have no other God except him. This idea is established in the first Law of the 10 Commandments when it says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) This idea of worshipping one God has a fancy theological term for it called monotheism and is central to the teaching of Christianity. (If nothing else you just got a great word for Words With Friends later) This is so important because as Christians we are called to not muddy our spiritual waters with other gods spiritual or natural alike. If we believe who Jesus is then we have made ourselves exclusively His and all other gods get the boot.
#2 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – The second part of this prayer gives us the expectation God has for our relationship with him. In a crude way this is the job description for being a Christian. When we decide to join “Team Jesus” the stakes are high and the expectations are higher. You see the proof of whether or not the first part of this prayer is true is found in if you are able to do the second part. If God is your only God then you are left with nothing else but to give him everything you have. After all if you have one option who else could you give yourself too? However, too often we don’t give God everything we have, but rather the low hanging fruit, the easy stuff, the stuff we need help with, or the stuff that is leftover after we get in all the sinning we can. The truth is that we serve other gods like our jobs, hobbies, and addictions and in so doing splinter our worship. However, what happens to us when we do give Him our heart, soul, mind, and strength is that we start to come alive. When our spirit is no longer divided, we become laser locked on the things of God it becomes easy to relinquish our self to Him.
God makes no bones about the fact that he is a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5) and that jealous God wants all of you. However our view of jealously and God’s is much different. We see jealous as the creepy ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t stop texting you to see where you were all the time. God see’s jealousy as someone that is protective and so loving that they don’t want anything to hurt them or distract them from His love for them.
I’m glad we have a God that wants that type of relationship with us because if he was ambivalent about his feelings toward us I’d be more concerned. If God changes his feelings towards me as easy as the wind blows I’d feel pretty uneasy about my eternity with Him. But a God that sets up high expectations and exclusivity with Him in return is one that I want to know and be loved by. That is a powerful feeling of love that only our God can provide and sustain.
So the next time you hear someone talk about loving the Lord your God with all your heart lean in and smile because that may just be a little Shema-kiss from God telling you He loves you.