What does it mean to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind? I guess I would want to understand what each of the words, heart, soul, and mind, are actually referring to. What is heart? As I studied I came across a number of definitions. The Hebrews believed that the heart, the place that was the center of their emotions, was their bowels. We westerners, when we speak of heart, put our hands on our chests in the approximate area of our heart. No matter where we believe that area is, heart is the center of our emotions, the place where we feel joy, happiness, sadness, peace, and all the rest of the feelings that make us who we are.
The soul is where our emotions meet the spiritual side of us. This, for me, is the hardest piece to get my mind around. The soul is who we are, who we have been shaped to be by our environment and by our God. I’m sure it is way more than I have described here but I picture my soul as that part of me that is at the very center of my being, the part of me that will never, ever, die.
And then there is the mind, the mind is the center of logical reasoning; the part that often times gets us into trouble or causes us pain and trouble. The mind, as the advertising folks remind us, is a terrible thing to waste.
Jesus said that the most important thing, the greatest commandment, was to love God. Now that sounds like an easy thing to do. God created everything; he provides, for me, everything I need. Loving him is easy. Oh, wait a minute. He put that little word all in there didn’t he. We are to give our all to him. Now that does make it a lot harder. All, our entire being, we are to love God with everything we are. And since most of us westerners are also shaped by the things we possess that means even what we call our possessions, everything.
How can we love God, that’s the real question? How many of us have had the opportunity, like Moses, to talk to God face to face? How many of us have come out of our little tent of meeting after talking with God and been seen with faces so radiant from the power of God that people were afraid to look at us? I haven’t met anyone, yet we are commanded to love God with our whole being. How are we to do that, love a God whom we’ve never seen?
It’s easy to say this is what we should do but to really do it, that’s the tough part. Isn’t it?
I believe part of the answer is in the second part of Jesus’ answer. Mother Teresa once said, “We love the God we can’t see by loving the neighbor who we can see.” Think about that. There’s quite a bit of truth in what she said. To love a neighbor as we love ourselves requires that we change. Most of us love ourselves, some of us love ourselves so much that we don’t want to share and that’s our selfish side showing. To love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves therefore means that the love we share with them must be selfless. And that’s hard.
And so we’re back where we started. In order for you and me to love our neighbors we first have to love our God with our total being. And we find that hard. So what are we to do? How do we give God our all?
Friends, God knew this wasn’t easy since we all live in sin. The world pulls so hard at us. It wants us to turn our backs on God and seek our own pleasures. It doesn’t want us to give God our all. That’s what sin is, turning our backs on God, living as if he doesn’t exist. And we all do that don’t we. Maybe not all the time but we do it. We can’t help it because we are imperfect people.
God made us perfect but we messed it up when we thought we knew better than God. And so he cast us out of the Garden of Eden. And oh how we want back in. God has given us a way, Jesus.
That’s the second part of the gospel lesson today. Jesus didn’t stop with just the answer to the greatest commandment question. He answered that question then he had a question for his questioners, “Who is the Messiah?” Well that’s easy; it’s the son of David. Good answer, but then Jesus makes it hard when he quotes Psalm 110:1 that says, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” They couldn’t answer and so they walked away and asked him no more questions.
Jesus had answered all their questions but they still couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe that he was the Messiah. They couldn’t believe that God’s kingdom was here on earth and so they couldn’t love God and they couldn’t love their neighbor. They loved themselves and their world too much.
What do we believe? Do we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, our Messiah? Are we ready to accept him as our Savior? Are we ready to trust him with all we are? If we are then we need to turn our backs on the world and give our all to God. We must change.
Friends, we must put our faith in God before we can do anything else. We must believe that God is the great I Am, the one who brought Moses to the Promised Land and let him see it before he died. We must dare to proclaim the gospel message, dare ourselves to take the risk to love God, to love others. We must sacrifice our all for God and others. And only then will we truly find the joy and peace that we have been searching for, longing for, and desiring our entire lives.
Loving God and neighbor is about living as a revolutionary in a broken world. It’s about reorienting our lives in radical ways. Are we ready to do that? Are we ready to make sacrifices for our God and our neighbors?