At this point in our Morning Prayers we are presented with the words of Jesus recorded in Mark’s gospel:
The first commandment is: “Listen Israel! the Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.Mark 12. 29, 30
This commandment is at the heart of our Christian faith, but it is not an easy task. How can we love someone who we cannot see, hear, touch, smell or taste? Isn’t that asking too much of our human capabilities? Judging from the ups and downs of the Israelites in their relationship with God recorded in the Old Testament, we could come to the conclusion that it is. Those of us who are currently reading passages from Exodus and Numbers will probably have become exasperated at the way the people repeatedly rejected God. This occurred immediately after He had provided them with a means of escape from Egypt, a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the provision of food and drink each day. We can marvel at the fragility of the relationship and how quickly the people turned away to other ”gods”. The commandment that Moses brought down from the mountain top from God to the people was clearly very difficult for them to follow consistently, in spite of many new starts over several generations. Nevertheless, these words became the “Shema” for the Jews – a confession of faith recited every morning and evening and used at the beginning of every synagogue service.
So, how is it that Jesus expects us to be able to be obedient to this command? Well, I believe it is Jesus himself who makes all the difference. We can understand who God is through the “Word that became flesh”. We have the recorded picture in the Bible of his life mission to ‘proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free’ (Luke 5. 18). Through stories such as the Prodigal Son, he shows us glimpses of the Father heart of God, always seeking our best interests. We too can identify with this mission, as those for whom Christ came to make us whole personalities, redeemed by the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, paid on the Cross.
In response, we are called to love God in four distinct ways, which include every aspect of human life. The Message Bible translates it thus: ‘with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ Clearly, it is not a casual thing to love God, or something we can hold on to as a belief but which doesn’t have a radical impact on our daily lives. If our heart and soul are engaged, we will make time for God in our thoughts and prayers throughout the day – not just at set times. Our minds will focus on God by reading scripture and making sure that we have a diet of helpful Christian literature to read, alongside enjoying secular entertainment. We will devote a large proportion of our physical and mental energy to God’s service, as we discover and develop the gifts God has given us.
With this in mind, let’s look forward to the next week with a renewed passion and energy to love God in our daily lives.