Recently I've been pondering what it means to love God. It's been on my mind a lot because Easter is not very far away, and so I've been studying the death and resurrection of Christ in preparation for our church services. As I've studied what Christ went through in the week leading up to His crucifixion, I keep thinking, “He must have loved God a lot!”
Now, to be honest, this is a somewhat unusual thought for me. Typically when I think of the crucifixion, I think of how much Jesus must have loved us, because He went through so much agony on our behalf. But for some reason, this time around, I keep thinking of how much He must have loved His Father, because after all, it was God He was being obedient to when He went up on that cross. And death on a cross is an instruction that would take a lot of love to carry out.
So as I’ve been pondering the amount of love for God that it took for Jesus to do what He did, it’s made me consider how good I am at loving God. And again, usually I'm busier asking myself if I'm good at being obedient to God, rather than considering whether I’m loving God well. So this question got me intrigued - and it led me to Matthew 22:37, in which Jesus answers a question about what's the most important commandment. Here's what He says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
It seems that, while obeying God is important, loving Him is even more so. And as Jesus answers this question, He also outlines for us three ways we need to be sure to love God. First of all, we're to love Him with all of our hearts. Now, it's important to understand that, in biblical Hebrew culture, the word “heart” was used in this way to refer to the core of someone's being. So Jesus is telling us that loving God should be our foundation - it should be what defines us.
Second, Jesus says we are to love God with all our souls. The word He uses for “soul” in this passage is the same word He uses when He cries out in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34) So, Jesus tells us that loving God includes our emotions.
And then finally, Jesus tells us that we are to love God with all of our minds. And this is an interesting one to me because I've always assumed it meant we needed to have a good academic, or factual understanding of God and His Word. But as I studied it, I discovered that, in the original language, this word actually carried more of a meaning of “might” - and it speaks to having energy, strength and determination.
So it seems that if we're going to love God well, then we need to love Him with every part of our lives. We need to love Him from the deepest part of our being. We need to love Him with our emotions. And we need to love Him with all of the strength we have. And of course, this is where it gets challenging, because it seems to me that most of us tend to love God the way we feel most comfortable. So some of us might love Him with all of our minds, but we're afraid to express emotion about Him. Others of us love God with great emotion, but it's an up and down roller coaster ride of emotion - which means there's not a determination to love when the emotion isn't there. But this passage reminds us that God wants balance from us. He wants us to love Him with every fiber of our being - and to do it with our hearts and our minds engaged.
So today, let’s commit to loving God well. Let's prayerfully ask Him to show us the areas in our lives where we're unbalanced in our love for Him. And as He does that, let’s ask Him to give us the desire and the ability to love Him in a complete and authentic way - the way He desires to be loved.