Mark 12:28-34 tells the story of a scribe who asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Since the Old Testament contains 613 laws, this was a VERY good question. Jesus’ response, which focuses on loving God with all our HEART, SOUL, MIND & STRENGTH and LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES, is echoed in other parts of scripture (Deut 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 30:6; Jos 22:5; Mat 22:37; and, Luk 10:27).
As we walk through the five distinct aspects of this commandment and consider what they might look like applied to our lives, I would encourage us to remember that this is MUCH more than a list of more stuff to do… This is an invitation to fall deeper in love with God…
Naturally, there are aspects of this commandment that come more easily to us than others. There is nothing wrong with gravitating toward our strengths, but we don’t want to neglect the other elements of the invitation in the process. BALANCE has always been a key component of a healthy spiritual life. We recognize that relying too much on one area of our spirituality can cause unique challenges as well.
* This is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject. It is intended to encourage and spark further exploration.
With All Our Heart
Three common Heart Conditions prevent many people from falling deeper in love with God.
- A Hardened Heart is often the result of resentment and/or disobedience. When this happens, we have difficulty experiencing God and experiencing JOY. Remedies include Obedience, Forgiveness, and God’s Help.
- A Cluttered Heart occurs when we attempt to find peace and fulfillment in THINGS (possessions, people, accomplishments, etc.). God created our hearts with a space that can ONLY be filled by HIM.
- A Broken Heart is an all-too-common condition these days. Pain, unfortunately, is a part of the human experience. We remember that Jesus experienced pain as well and that we are never alone in our suffering. Many passages of scripture remind us of God’s closeness to the broken and broken-hearted (Ps 34:18; 51:17; Is 42:3).
Psalm 51 offers an excellent prayer for people seeking sensitive, uncluttered and restored hearts.
* Those who rely heavily on this aspect of loving God can be emotional & easily affected by external circumstances.
With All Our Soul
Our SOUL (Nashama in Hebrew & Psyche in Greek) is God’s breath in each of us. It is the UNIQUE, ETERNAL and SPIRITUAL ESSENCE of who we are. Our soul, which is affected by our motives and our actions, will live forever (either united with or separated from God).
Our SOULS are the only part of us that exists beyond time or space. Because of this, it can be difficult to cultivate (or even be aware of) our soul. Prayer, Worship, and Meditation (which often involves attention to our breathing) can help our souls connect with God in extremely DEEP and POWERFUL ways. This looks different for everyone, but all involve carving out time and space in our lives to seek God in these ways.
Psalm 46:10 is an excellent scripture to meditate on.
* Exclusive focus in this area can detach us from reality and cause us to miss important physical experiences.
With All Our Mind
In one way or another and to one degree or another, God has revealed information about himself to every person who has ever lived (Rom 1:20). I believe we are held accountable, not for how much theological knowledge we possess, but for the way we respond to what has been revealed to us (Luke 12:48). No matter how much (or how little) we know about God, we are always invited and encouraged to grow deeper in our understanding of Him.
A Growing Mind seeks more understanding. If we are not sure about God or Spirituality be honest – it’s okay! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – God is big enough (Mat 7:7)! If we already believe, there is more (2 Tim 3:14)!
A Grounded Mind stays connected with God by focusing on Him and enjoying His presence in the present moment. We resist temptation to drift into regret or resentment (past) or into worry or anxiety (future).
A Grateful Mind changes our perspective on everything (in a good way). Make a Gratitude List, seriously!
Inventory your thought life… How much time is spent focused on God? How much time on other stuff?
* Acceptance of ideas about God (belief) isn’t enough. Belief put into action results in experienced faith. (Js 2:14-16)
With All Our Strength
Being a Follower of Jesus (not just a Fan) requires OUR BEST (time, energy, sacrifice, intentionality). Ultimately, however, our strength comes from God (2 Cor 12:9; Is 40:29; Phil 4:13). It’s a partnership – we dance, but He leads.
Loving God with all our strength involves putting our beliefs into ACTION (1 Jn 3:18; Js 1:22-25; Js 2:17 & 2:20).
It involves applying our UNIQUE ABILITIES (the Greek word is-hoos can be translated as strengths or abilities).
It involves COOPERATION, but God is the Boss! We listen & seek direction (prayer) – then do our part (obedience).
There is a HUGE difference between wanting to do great things FOR God and inviting God to do great things THROUGH us. The 1st way depends on self (and our extremely limited resources). It leads to fatigue & frustration. The 2nd way depends on God (whose resources are limitless). It leads to joy, freedom, and peace!
* Be cautious of developing a works-based mentality. Don’t carry burdens that aren’t ours to carry!
Our Neighbor as Ourselves
Learning to love our neighbor, according to this passage, requires learning to love ourselves.
Loving ourselves means being able to accept God’s love for us – sounds simple, but many people struggle with this.
The Things I’ve Done (or haven’t) are too much OR I’m Not Good Enough are both COMMON MENTALITIES.
NOTHING we can do is bigger than God’s love & mercy! Consider Paul’s story (see Rom 8:38 & 1 Tim 1:15)
God FORGAVE Paul. God LOVED Paul. God USED Paul. He can do the same with us!
In and of ourselves, we are NOT good enough… Fortunately, God’s love for us is not dependent on our performance. We don’t earn it. God loves us because we are His children (1 Jn 3:1; Ps 86:15; John 3:16).
When we accept GOD’S LOVE, we can love ourselves. When we LOVE OURSELVES, we can begin to LOVE OTHERS.
For practical advice on loving others read 1 Corinthians 13 (the whole thing)!
* Focus on GOD FIRST! Only then can we truly love ourselves and others…