Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. —Deuteronomy 6:4–5
This is what the Jews refer to as the Shema. It’s much like a statement of faith, a summary of beliefs, if you will. In Matthew 22, a lawyer asked Jesus a question in order to test Him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (v. 36). Jesus quoted the Shema in response: “ ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (vv. 37–40).
As mentioned yesterday, the whole of the Christian life was summarized by Paul in one sentence in 2 Timothy 4:5. But the fact is, if we attempt to follow Paul’s instruction as a set of rules, it will soon become very burdensome. But if we approach the Christian life, not as a set of disciplines, but as an expression of love for God and others, we will enjoy a more successful and sustainable Christian life.
We never have to be pushed into doing the things we love. We run to them, we long for them, we make time for them, and we even make them a priority. This is exactly why the Shema was Jesus’ response to the lawyer who questioned Him. “It’s all about love” was Jesus’ answer. Not that there are no disciplines at all in love, but have you noticed how easy it is to overlook something in someone you love than it is in someone you dislike? Have you noticed how you can accept things you don’t understand when it pertains to someone you love as compared to someone you don’t? Love changes things, including your perception and reaction to the actions of others. God does things you do not understand, and at times other Christians do things you dislike. But what should be your response? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor the way God loves you!
Excerpt from “Body Builders” now available on Amazon.