We can easily get lost in theological debates and very complex doctrinal questions. Expanding our Bible knowledge is great practice, but sometimes it’s good to go back to basics: loving God.
The verse is so simple. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV). When we are in love with God in this way, the Christian life is not complicated. Loving God is the answer to our temptations, the solution to our anxieties, and the comfort to our sadness. That was what Jesus considered most important. “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV). According to Jewish tradition, the passage in Deuteronomy 6 is called the “Shema,” which comes from the word “Listen” (the first word of verse 4). Every day, Jews recite the Shema, morning and evening, to remember their basics. It may not be a bad idea, indeed, to remember this elementary principle.
Loving God with all our hearts means loving Him thoughtfully. The heart, in the Hebrew language, is not only the organ in our body. It is also the seat of our thoughts, where our knowledge is. It is our information center with which we make our decisions. Love is not just an emotion, just butterflies in the stomach and violins in the sky. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, we see that love is a decision, a commitment. It is an attachment that we decide to have even when it requires sacrifices. We must choose to love God. We must calculate the cost of our salvation and cleave to Him despite the cost (Luke 14:27-33).
To love God with all our soul also means to love Him with our emotions, and passion. God never loved sacrifices only by religious acts (1 Samuel 15:22), without love. Of course, a parent is happy that their child tidies their room, but they much prefer that their child do it with a good attitude and not with a grumble. God does not want us to walk in His will just because we are afraid of hell. He wants a passionate relationship with us. He wants to be our friend (Psalms 25:14). This love develops by noticing all the charming attentions that God gives us in a day. It is by marveling at His goodness and singing His praises. It is by “hungering” for His presence, as a deer sighs by the streams of water (Psalm 42:2).
To love God with all our strength means to love Him completely, without reserve. It is not having two masters (Matthew 6:24). God does not want to share His throne in our life with another god. To love Him with all our strength is to give more than our minimum (Luke 17:10). This is the time when we desire to devote our talents, our abilities, to the growth of His kingdom on Earth. It is not to walk slowly in this Christian life, but to run and persevere (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). It’s letting go of the idea of “what can I allow myself to do before it’s considered a sin”. We do not want to offer our crumbs to God, but to our whole being.
It is good to ask yourself what God thinks of this or that behavior, or this or that decision. But sometimes the answer is as simple as going back to the source: to love God. Oh! It is not easy! It is actually impossible to have this relationship…without the help of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 19:26). But since God loves us that way and is extremely patient, He will be more than happy to hold our hand in our loving relationship with Him.