“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
What a radical command! God demands a love that is complete. God is to be the root of our affections, the object of our longings, the subject of our meditations, and the end of our labors.
How could God ask for so much? Well, would you give someone a book with pages torn out? A car with doors missing? Or a cake that’s half-eaten? Of course not! That would be a rip-off!
Anything less than an entire person dedicated to God is a rip-off. Love in one of these areas alone is not love at all.
We tend to think of love as originating from the heart. We talk about “breaking someone’s heart,” and “following your heart.” All emotions spring from the heart, and our culture places a high value on these emotions.
We like to love. We each have someone (or maybe several people) who excites us and makes us feel happy. Shouldn’t those feelings be strongest for our creator and our savior?
But feelings are hard to control. We can’t make ourselves feel something no matter how hard we try. It is common for people to become Christians because of an emotional experience, but it doesn’t work that way for everyone, and that experience can’t be the be-all and end-all. Just as a marriage cannot last if it depends on how two people feel about each other at any given moment. Hearts are terribly fickle. Feelings can make a 360 degree turn from one day to the next.
So what do we do? Do we follow our feelings wherever they may lead us? That’s dangerous. Do we just ignore our feelings then? That’s not really living, and certainly not loving.
Our emotions and our intellect go hand-in-hand. One can influence the other. As we ponder the marvelous works and character of God, our feelings of love for him should be aroused. And those feelings in turn should drive us to seek a better understanding of the nature of God.
As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “That is why daily prayers and religious readings and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.”
We cannot stop studying the Bible, and we cannot stop worshipping through music, dance, silence, or any other way we express our emotions. To neglect either side of the equation is to kill our love.
Of course, that is only two of the four ways we are instructed to love God. I will address the other two in another post. For now think of Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”