I had to take a trip to Wenatchee this week and I was listening to the radio on the way. As I was scanning through the channels I heard a preacher reading Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” He went on to say that when Jesus called this the “greatest commandment” it was not because He thought it was the most important, but rather because it the hardest command to follow, it is the most challenging. To be honest, that thought has come back to me multiple times today.
When I think of the hardest, most challenging commands—my mind goes to the commands not to lie or not to lust, my mind even dwells on the requirement to love my neighbor—but I don’t think about the command to love God as hard to do. After all, if you are a Christian, then you love God. It seems pretty straight forward to me. Yet it kept coming back to me. And as I kept thinking about it, I wondered do I love God with all of my heart, my soul and my strength? If I am honest, I have to say, “No.” Do I love God, “Yes, absolutely!” DO I LOVE GOD WITH ALL? Sadly, I do not. How do you answer that question? The english translation for the words “love”, “heart”, “soul”, and “strength” do not convey the depth of their meaning. The word for “love” speaks to a covenant commitment revealed in action. The Hebrew word for “heart” refers equally to the seat of emotion and will as well as the center of thought or the mind. The word for soul literally means “throat” or “gut.” Often used metaphorically for “appetite”, “desire”, the “whole self”, or the “whole body.” Finally, except for passages using this same phrasing the word for “strength” is always used as an adverb meaning “greatly”, “exceedingly”, or “abundantly.”
Quite literally, the depth, intensity, and consuming nature of this passage cannot be expressed with mere words. This command to love God, one that requires an absolute, all-consuming and unreserved devotion to God. When considered in this way, how could any person say they remotely come close—and yet this God, whom I am supposed to love so completely, knows I cannot love Him the way I ought still love’s me.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1a