“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38, NRSV)
Sunday morning, we talked about the text from Matthew that the above quote is taken from. We moved past this section to talk about who Jesus is and what it means to call him “Lord.” We also briefly mentioned what it means to “love God” and some of the challenges we face in this task. Just as a reminder, I said that this idea brings up all sorts of tough questions.
- How does one love God?
- How do we imagine loving an unseen, spiritual being who created everything?
- What does our love look like in comparison to the undeserved, unconditional love we believe God offers to us?
- Can we describe this love or find any words to contain it?
These are big questions and I don’t think there are any easy answers. But, I don’t think we should ignore the questions just because the solutions are hard. I think that Jesus wants us to contemplate these questions and listen for his voice to guide us through the issues that come to mind.
After the services on Sunday, this conversation continued out into the hallway. We talked about how the questions change depending on what is happening in our lives at any given moment. Sometimes, instead of, “How do I love God?” the question might be, “Do I love God?” There may be times when we just can’t imagine loving God because God seems so far away from us at that moment; we may feel abandoned. There may be times in our life when we can’t imagine love for a being we cannot see when we focus so much of our love on the people we are closest to here on earth.
Our culture may also have a role to play in how we understand “love”. After all, we love our favorite TV show, our favorite movie, or an admired celebrity. We love pizza, or pecan pie, or cookie dough ice cream from Braum’s. We love the weather, we love a pair of shoes, and we love the idea of love. We have been trained to dilute the meaning of the word by using it to describe every positive feeling we may feel. Professing our true love is as nonchalant as, “See you later.”
It is no wonder that we have a hard time wrapping our heads around, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” How can God possibly compete with pizza and ice cream?
When Jesus laid out the two greatest commandments he clearly had priorities in mind. God is first, always. Next is caring for others as we wish to be cared for, always. Lastly, is pizza and ice cream and all the other stuff that we want to satisfy ourselves.
I will not pretend that any of this is easy; it’s not. Learning to love God first, always is constant challenge because we are, by nature, selfish beings. We have a need for self-preservation that often drives us to selfish behavior. When we prioritize loving God first and loving others next, we can still preserve our selves, but we can avoid the selfish part. It’s all about priorities.