This commandment is simple, its clarity stark. And growing up, I often heard it summarized with even greater starkness: love God. How? With everything you've got: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Your love for him should be total. With no part neglected, everything reaching out, love the Lord.
That's beautiful and true. The simplicity with which we're called to love God is alluring. But what fascinates me most about this commandment is its specificity. Rather than just saying "love God," the commandment names four different organs of love. The commandment resists generalization, giving us some categories by which we can think about this love. We're to love with our heart. We're to love with our soul. We're to love with our mind. We're to love with our strength. As a set, they're a complete picture of what total love for God looks like. All of you should love him.
Yet, there they are, these distinct categories. Because they're all separated out like this, it leads me to wonder, "why does loving the Lord with all of your heart look like? And how is it different than loving the Lord with the others?" Their distinctions are real and by contemplating each, we might discover a richer way of thinking about our total love for God.
Over the next few weeks, this is the question I'd like to consider with you. How can we think about how to love the Lord in a full and total way by learning to love him with each of our parts? And how do we prayerfully consider the measure of our love for God from each of these parts?
But before we jump into each category, I want to start with a simple premise. It goes like this: fulfilling the command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" means to follow Christ's way with each. Christ, who fulfills the law and the prophets, fulfills this commandment too. He teaches us what perfect love for the Father looks like. Using his heart, mind, soul, and strength, Christ loves the Father and then gives us the grace to join him. The commandment cannot be fulfilled apart from Christ, neither his teaching nor his help.
As we consider how to love the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength, we'll look to Christ's example. For each, we'll need to ask: "how did Christ show us how to love his Father with this part?" It's a big question, one that could lead to lots of interesting questions like, "what's Christ's incarnate mind like?" or "what's a heart?" In each post, I'll do my best to give enough groundwork to account for those questions, but jump past them pretty quickly. I want to think about how we love, and how love from our heart, mind, soul, and strength might each be different expressions of a single, focused, total love.
A big project, one that's too big for me on my own. And it's one that's surely not going to end over the course of a few weeks or months. This is one of those lifetime questions, but still worth asking. And even more, worth changing our lives around the truths that we find. But Christ, who knows our limits and our loves, is here to help. He's our companion in the way of love, empowering us by his Spirit to love the Father perfectly in the fullest measure.
*This list, of course, is a composite of verses. The command in Deuteronomy 6 names "heart, soul, and strength." Jesus' reference to it in the synoptic gospels includes mind, though Matthew excludes "strength." For the sake of this series, we will use all four.