One of my favorite passages of late is in a book called Mark where Jesus responds to the religious scholars who asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
He tells us the top two... to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."
To me there is amazing beauty in these words, but recently I read them in a version by a different translator where they jumped off the page at me. Jesus replies "love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy" and to "love others as well as you love yourself."
Do the people you gather with help you accomplish this? Do you see it in their lives? Do you help bring it out in them and do they help bring it out in you? If not, why not?
Clara emailed Brad and I with the following...
"I really appreciate the conversation that you are trying to promote on ROT. I like it especially because it pushes me into clarifying what and why I believe in God. So I raise a question in response to your question. How do we define Loving God with all our heart soul and mind? What does that really mean? Then how do we accomplish it? Is it ever something that can be accomplished here on earth? I have to admit that alot of times loving God feels crummy at the moment because I'm usually not getting my way. It's only later that i see how God was using that sacrifice."
I'll try and respond to some of the great questions Clara asks...
"How do we define Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind (and strength)? What does that really mean? Then how do we accomplish it? Is it ever something that can be accomplished here on earth?"
I'll refer back to the words of The Message I quoted above from the greatest commandment...
Heart = Passion
Soul = Prayer
Mind = Intelligence
Strength = Energy
"Love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy." How do we do that? I think it's impossible! And as a friend recently pointed out to me, that's precisely why Christ refered to that as the greatest commandment. The commandments were the law and the law was impossible to fulfill. And as we see here, even the very first of the commandments is impossible to fulfill. That's precisely why Christ came to free us from the law. It is by grace we receive salvation, not by our working and striving and struggling to keep even one command.
I think God wants our passion, our prayer, our intelligence, and our energy, because He wants US! It's that simple. And if he has those four items from us he'll have us.
Can it happen here on earth? I don't know. Something tells me that these mortal coils may not be capable of it. Of course if it were simple, the road we travel on would not be narrow, would it?
It is great for Clara to open up and ask the tough question: what happens when loving God doesn’t feel right? I’ve been in this place before and I am sure a lot of others can also identify.
Kent provided some great insight on this and I would agree, it is not possible BUT (and don’t you love the buts in the bible) for God. I was recently reminded of the amazing work that Jesus did for us, both on the cross and off the cross. Let me explain.
There are times when we focus on Christ’s death, and rightfully so, as this was an amazing act of love to provide way back to a holy God. But we forget that Jesus lived for 33 years before dying on the cross. 33 years of a holy, sinless life ... facing all the temptations that we are all too familiar with ... but loving God with all his heart, mind and soul and loving his neighbors too through it all. Wow.
So once we grasp that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death, our debt is wiped clean (and if this doesn’t already blow you away) hold on because Jesus’ good and perfect life is credited to our account. God sees us as if we loved him with all our heart, mind and soul. It is like going from bankruptcy to becoming a billionaire. And the amazing thing is this is true whether we feel like it.
Now where does this leave us? I would be encouraged that Clara is aware of this feeling. This is a sign of God’s grace working in your life. It might help to spend some time being amazed by what we already have in Christ and than to focus on what we can do – that is, with God’s help, striving to grow our relationship with God. We have a part to play in the quality of the relationship we enjoy. And in this part, we need help. First from God, but also from fellow Christians. We need each other. That is why I appreciate Kent asking if we are surrounding ourselves with people that are seeking to live out Mathew 22:37? We aren’t supposed to do it alone.
Hope this is an encouragement.
Are you saying because we cannot love God perfectly, our imperfect efforts at love are useless, and become null and void in spreading the Gospel of love? How will others know the love of God if we don't demonstrate what love is?
Responding to Clara...
"Are you saying because we cannot love God perfectly, our imperfect efforts at love are useless, and become null and void in spreading the Gospel of love?"
Absolutely not... Like Sheff said, Christ's perfection makes up for our imperfection. He wants our passion, our prayer, intelligence and energy, but I don't think we need to beat ourselves up when we fall short of doing it perfectly. We WILL fall short. We WILL fail him. If we wouldn't fall short and if we wouldn't fail him we wouldn't NEED him.
no disagreement on the necessity of grace. Following Jesus requires us to die to self. That is not beating oneself up it is being fully aware of our need for the grace and mercy God extends to us. Someone smarter than me said there is no virture without struggle. Trying to grow in virtue, shouldn't be confused as an attempt to earn ones salvation.
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