Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
I was thinking about these verses the other day, and what do you know, a large part of the sermon at church last Sunday was devoted to these verses.
Most Christians would be able to recite these verses off by heart, and they are definitely drilled into the children at Sunday School. Did anyone else learn the song with the actions? But as with other verses that we know like the back of our hand, we often forget to dwell on them and meditate on what they really mean.
What does it mean to love God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind and ALL your strength? I have a feeling that if you were to look up the Greek for the word "all", it would mean "all". The idea just really blows my mind. God doesn't just want a piece of my heart, a fraction of my mind, an ounce of my strength or a portion of my soul. He wants ALL of me.
I like what the evangelical Pope (aka John MacArthur) has to say about this:
"The use of various terms is not meant to delineate distinct human faculties, but to underscore the completeness of the kind of love that is called for."
It makes me wonder if there has ever been a time, a moment, where I have fully given to God all He deserves - given myself over to Him completely. I guess that's why Paul writes in Romans 12:1,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
This is something I need to be doing every day, or every hour, or however often I need to. And when I reflect on how poorly I do this, my amazement at God's grace grows. He is so patient with me.
The second part of the commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’, is equally challenging. I think this verse says quite a lot about human nature. It doesn't command us to "love ourselves" because God understands human nature, and knows that we do that automatically. Sure, people might say they hate themselves, but at the end of the day they still clothe themselves, feed themselves, and make sure they have somewhere to sleep at night. But do we do all this for the homeless person on the street? Sadly, not many of us do.
I love how the two commandments are really bound up in each other. You can't love God with all you have and not love the people He has created. And likewise, you can't have a real heart for people without first loving and giving everything to God. For it is the love we receive from God that makes us love Him, because He loved us first.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
And it is because of the amazing love that He demonstrated to us through Christ that we are able to love him completely and want to love Him completely. After all, since He sacrificed Himself completely for us, is it not reasonable that we should do the same?
And once we know the love of God, we can share that with others. We can do this selflessly, without any prior agenda, except for showing them God's love. What an incredible calling we have, and how amazing that we get to do it together with God.