"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart..."
How many times have we read this familiar Scripture? We know it is important, (along with loving God with all our soul, mind, and strength) because the premise is repeated throughout the Bible; and three of the four Apostles quote it directly in their epistles.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each of the writers presents the narrative of the Pharisees testing Jesus about the commandments. In each of these Gospel renditions, Jesus teaches that loving God is the greatest (and primary) commandment, and out of that will come the second commandment: to love others as we love ourselves.
But Mark's gospel provides a richness and a depth that goes beyond the other two. First of all, he quotes Jesus as saying further, "There is none other commandment greater than these." And this is why I chose this particular Scripture today. You see, I am writing this because I need to explore if I am loving God with all my heart.
At this particular season in my spiritual life, I am questioning if I am really loving God as He commands. I desperately want my heart to be consumed with love for Him! I have no doubts about my desire to seek Him, my longing to know more of Him, or my wish to glorify Him and tell the world about His saving Grace. But there are times that I wonder if I love Him as much as He is worthy of being loved.
It is easy to say we love God, isn't it? But what should that feel like? I can tell you what it feels like to love my husband, because there is no love of another person that compares to it. But the love of my God is to be greater than that; I am to love Him with ALL my heart, or as some Bible translations say, with my WHOLE heart.
I honestly believe that loving God in this way should bring me to my knees in the magnitude of it, and that it should illicit tears of joy and awe --- not in a conspicuous fashion as to boast of it, but in the secrecy of my private moments with Him. After all, the heart is the center of our powerful emotions and desires. What affects our lives (our affections) are borne here, and impacts how we conduct our lives. It is in our human nature to cling to whatever we have affection for. Shouldn't God be at the top of that list? I confess that, too often, He is in the background when He should be center stage.
Which leads us to another well-known Scripture: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21). Intellectually, I know that God is my treasure. And I know that my heart loves what I treasure. But is God my Supreme treasure? Is He my all-consuming Treasure? If He was, shouldn't I feel it, and know it? Am I not loving Him enough; as completely as He ought to be?
I have searched for answers to my dilemma, both within Scripture and in notable commentaries, and they all seem to portray loving God with all your heart as including a decision to pursue Him; to studying the Bible and what it says about the glory of who Jesus is and what He has done; that this will grow a love for Him in your heart. I actively do these things, but I sometimes wonder if I have somehow stifled the growth of my love through the distractions of this world. I want to know what it feels like to devote all my heart to Him.
I know this sounds like I am on a never-ending circular debate, and perhaps the scribe in the following verses of Mark 12 is the key to my answer. Apart from his fellow Pharisees, the scribe seeks Jesus to tell him that he recognizes the Truth of the commandment. Furthermore, he states that he knows that loving God with all our heart, understanding, soul and strength (and loving our neighbor as ourselves) pleases God more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices that Israel has to offer. Jesus's answer validates the scribe's understanding and He tells him "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
Jesus is encouraging him to continue in furthering his understanding and knowledge of what pleases God -- he is told he's "not far" from the kingdom of grace and glory. Perhaps loving God with all my heart is a process; a journey. Maybe it's not about static emotion and feeling, as much as it is about a continual pursuing of Him. Perhaps my heart cannot be wholly consumed with love for Him until I have reached the full capacity of the discoveries of Himself that God will deposit in my heart. Just maybe, by seeking ever-greater time and intimacy with Him; of being conscious of how I express my love of Him to other people, I can make pleasing Him the focus of my heart, my mind, and the works of my soul. And I have a feeling my heart will swell with the joy of loving Him in all my ways!