“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
This is a big command. Like, huge. Our God is Adonay-HaAdonim “Lord of Lords”, and He has commanded us to spend our lives showing Him our love. Different people will have different definitions or opinions on how this love is to be displayed in our lives. Which I think is part of the beauty of God’s revelation.
In the past, I just took this command to love God to mean “with all that you are”, or a way of saying the same thing over again using different words, much like the Psalmists do throughout the book of Psalms. Because at first glance heart, soul, mind, and strength seem to sort of be the same thing. I now think it goes much deeper than this. I’ve decided that in order to love the Lord, I need to know exactly what this love is to look like. That is why over the past few months I have decided to take each word and define through the Bible how this is to be exemplified in my life. I will be taking each word
The first big word in this verse is ‘love’. Most people know there are different types of love used throughout the Bible. So what type of love is this that we are to show to God?
Defined in Thayer’s as ‘to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.’ This just didn’t seem to cut it to me. Surely we are to be more than fond of God. Surely we are to do more than welcome and entertain God in our lives. So I began to dig deeper.
Agapao’s primary meaning is to esteem or value because of a perceived intrinsic worth. Actions arising from agagao are primarily acts of will, not emotions. This is key to understanding why agapao love can be commanded of us, as feelings are not required to practice this love. This love never leaves the realm of the will, even if emotions do come into play at a later point. Fervent agapao love is more of a fervent call to duty and devotion because it is the right thing to do. If we decide that someone has intrinsic worth, separate from any behavior, we can practice this love all the time.
Agapao love is self-sacrificial love. It is a love we show by going to the altar of God and laying ourselves down on it. It’s more than laying our wants and wishes on the altar. It’s putting our entire selves on the altar for sacrifice.
God has displayed behaviors and actions that should make it easy for us to apply this agapao love as well as the phileo love of emotion and affection to Him. When we truly see life and the gifts granted to us as they are, it is no hard thing to feel love towards God.
But there are times in our lives that we may question the wisdom and goodness of God. Even Job began to fall into this pit of lies. Despite how we feel and what we in our limited vision think we see, we are still commanded to love God. We are commanded to still see the intrinsic worth He holds and cry out of the strongholds we find ourselves in. For if out of the depths we cry, we will cry ourselves out of the depths.
If we wait until we feel like loving God, any trial will bring us down and keep us down. Our Christian life is a constantly running treadmill. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. If we forget to choose to love God everyday through our thoughts and actions, we simply aren’t seeing His inherit worth and the worth of His daily graces. This is when we need to renew our mind. We aren’t allowed to live on our past spiritual highs.
Actions lead the emotions, just like the treadmill leads our feet in the direction we choose to go. Even when our life seems to be completely out of our control, choosing to ascribe glory and thanksgiving to God will result in a calmness and steadfastness that will allow us to rise above our circumstances and remain victorious. We must do the work of moving our feet before we are able to activate the emotion that we actually like running. (or not, for some people… 🙂 )
Now this choice isn’t always easy. This is a choice that must be made by the day, hour, and sometimes even by the minute. I’ve failed and triumphed in this struggle at different times in my life. Anxiety plagued me for a short season and it was difficult to make this choice. When I finally realized that this choice was up to me and that I could rise above the stresses and worries that seemed to overwhelm me, even when I couldn’t name them, the path was only uphill from there. Yes, there were times when slipping backwards was a part of my walk, but only by hanging on was I able to keep the upward climb. When I made the choice to believe that God was good, He was still with me, and God had a plan, only then did my emotions finally follow. If I had waited for my emotions to tell me that it was going to be ok, I would have been stuck for a very long time sinking deeper and deeper every day.
“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.” – C.S. Lewis
God has placed indefinite worth on us, in our desperately worthless state, in sending His Son, so how can we not turn around and do the same to Him? He didn’t wait for us to seem like worthy subjects (because that will never happen) before deciding to provide a way of escape.
Since we are to agapao love God, we now know that it is a choice. And a choice involves options. What else can we love besides God?
There are so many answers we can apply to this question, and everyone’s answers will be different. But in the passages I read that used the word ‘heart’, the main objects besides God that the heart could go after were idols. The sermon just the last week during the morning services touched on this subject, and these next few ideas come straight from that lesson.
Idols are not merely something we place higher than God. Idols are anything that we take a moment to look at while taking our focus off of God.
Turning our attention away from God for just a moment introduces an idol into our hearts. It starts way before putting something above God on our list.
Idols are lifeless things that turn us into lifeless things.
If we take a second to let social media, family, insecurity, selfishness, anxiety, overactive schedules, or lack of confidence take our attention away from our Lord, we have stopped giving Him agapao love. We have not placed intrinsic value on Him, His sacrifice, and the reward He has awaiting us. The intrinsic value of our cares and thoughts are now more important to us than the living and powerful Creator.
Already this love is a challenge worth taking on.
** Study materials used during this blog series are the ESV, Strongs, Esword, Blue Letter Bible, Vines, Thayers, and sermons preached at the local congregation I am blessed to be a part of.