Deuteronomy 6:4-5. 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This prayer, known as the Shema (the Hebrew word “hear”) was and is the center of all Jewish life. It is prayed daily at both the morning and evening prayer service. It is recited on the holy day of Yom Kippur. It is spoken over the dying. It’s like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer all rolled up into one. It’s a big deal.
But it’s not just a big deal for Jews. Jesus, our Savior, said that the Shema is the greatest commandment in scripture, coupling it with “love your neighbor as yourself.”
So why is loving God so important?
Because God is love. God created from love, and God created us to love and be loved as he loves. Loving God is the meaning of our lives. You stop loving God and you stop living. Sin is by definition the failure to love God.
“Love God” seems so obvious. Religion 101. But then why is it so hard? Why do we need this command? Why the need to repeat it over and over again? Why do we need to be told day after day to love the one true God?
The answer is because we naturally resist loving God. In fact, in our natural state, apart from Christ, we hate God. We are his born enemies. God is the one thing in the way of our self-determination and our self-rule. But if God really wants to change us, if he wants us to stop being so rebellious, why doesn’t he say “Submit to the Lord your God with all your heart…”? Or, “Obey the Lord your God with all your heart…”?
Because he loves us.
God wants our love first, before our obedience. Anyone can be beaten into submission and obedience. Anyone can choose to obey for their own good. But because God loves us with everything that he is, he wants us to love him with everything that we are.
Yes, love, like obedience, is an action (love with all your might), but love is also a feeling, a desire (love with all your heart), and an attitude (love with all your soul). And consider this – if loving with all that we are is what we were created for, then it would be unloving of God to NOT demand that we love him. It’s the same as if God commanded us to breath air. Of course we need to breath air to live, so the command to breath is not burdensome, it is life giving. Our soul is made to love God; we need to love God like we need to breath. And so, like breathing, the command to love God is life giving.
Except there’s one little problem (a big problem actually). We can’t do it.
Probably as soon as you read the Shema and its command to love God you felt it in your gut. You knew what we all know – you can’t command love. Forcing someone to love you immediately destroys love. Surely God must know this.
Don’t worry, he does. God knows that we can’t just manufacture love for him just because he told us to. This is why God didn’t just command us to love him. He first loved us. He initiated. He pursued. He gave. He demonstrated. He died. All from love.
“To live is Christ” means God has poured his unconditional and eternal love into our hearts by pouring Christ’s sacrificial life into our hearts. When we know and trust that we are loved infinitely we are transformed into the lovers that God seeks. Not just obeyers, but wholehearted lovers. Lovers that find the meaning of our lives in loving God with everything that we are and everything that we are becoming.
Do you love God? Do you know that you’re loved by God?
You in Christ
You have been placed into God’s eternal love. He cannot love you more and he cannot love you less. How does this capture your heart today?
Christ in you
Christ’s life in you empowers your love. How can you choose to love today?
Playlist: Love God.
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