“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:5
Jesus named this commandment as the greatest. And not just Muhammad Ali greatest. It actually is THE GREATEST or the commandment of first importance. The word in Greek for greatest is protos, from which we get the English word prototype.
Everything else in our faith and in our Scriptures comes from, hinges off of, refers back to, would be moot without this commandment.
So, do you know what it means?
Do you give it much thought?
If everything you believe and do is nothing without loving God with your entire being, shouldn’t it hold a pivotal place in your awareness?
I think the reason it doesn’t is because we read it as hyperbole. Exaggeration. Symbolic or metaphor.
How can you possibly love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength? Not possible, right? Maybe.
So, then, what do we do? We can’t fathom it. We can’t understand it. We don’t know the first thing about doing it. It seems too hard, too much, too (insert other doubt, concern, or fear here).
Let’s break it down and see if we can’t find some answers because I believe God gave His commandments literally, not as metaphor.
Love in Hebrew is “ahab.” It is pronounced awe-have. It means to breathe after something. If you think about breathing, you take air into your lungs and from your lungs it gets dispersed to every other part of your body. Your blood carries it everywhere.
That is how God wants us to be for Him. He wants us to take Him in and make Him a part of ourselves. He wants to be a part of our hearts, our souls, and our bodies. He wants you to take Him into these aspects of your being. He wants every part of you to need Him.
If you were to keep reading in Deuteronomy 6, you would find some specific ideas offered by God on how you can begin to do that.
The first is to have His Word upon your heart. That means you need to be in the Bible. And don’t just read it to get through it; read it to consume it, devour it, be nourished by it.
Get into your Bible and read it for the purpose of taking it in and making it a part of you.
The second idea that God offers is to talk about Him. A lot. Like when you sit at home, when you are driving around, when you are getting ready for bed, and when you are getting ready in the morning. The more you talk about Him, the more dispersed His presence becomes in your life.
Make spiritual talk a natural part of your everyday life.
The third idea is to put reminders of God on your body. Carry Him with you physically. Maybe you get a travel Bible and keep it in your car or your purse or your backpack. Maybe you wear some jewelry or clothing that bears a cross or some other thing that makes you think of God. Maybe you just start cleaning up your language.
Make your outside match your inside.
The last idea that God gives is to make Him a part of your home. For some that may mean putting Scriptures on the walls or hanging plaques that bear verses or prayers. For others it may mean putting out crosses. Perhaps laying out Bibles. Maybe playing Christian music or movies. More importantly, it would be in how you treat your family. When others walk into your home, do they sense a difference? Do they perceive that they just walked into a Christian home?
Make your house a house of God.
So now you have some ideas that will help you start to breathe after God. I hope you don’t take little shallow breaths. My prayer is that you breathe in deeply. Take Jesus into your being and let Him permeate all its various parts.
“Ahab the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
As I am making dinner one evening, I turn into my husband’s arms for a quick kiss as I hear the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the hallway. My older son didn’t announce himself or proclaim what he wanted. Instead, he yelled down the hallway to his younger brother, “They’re kissing again!” Emphasis was added to the “again.” He then ran back to his brother. I never knew why he came into the kitchen.
My husband and I both laughed over that particular moment, but as I have reflected upon it, I am grateful that my son feels that it is commonplace to see his parents exchange affection. A child’s home environment and interactions with parents plays a humongous role in establishing their belief system from which they make decisions and have relationships of their own.
I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase, “More is caught than is taught.” Because of the inherent deceitfulness of humanity, we have learned to trust actions more than words. We also remember actions better than words because it involves more of our senses.
Don’t get me wrong, the words are important. However, children are shaped by what they experience more than by the words they hear.
That’s pretty scary to hear. (Do I hear an ‘Amen’ from some of you parents?)
My children are going to be shaped primarily by their encounters with me – by my actions. I will be the first to confess that there are too many times when I look back and grimace at my actions. I am a sinner and continually, daily, fall short.
No wonder old-time psychiatrists always blamed the mother. Not that it’s true. But, seriously, how responsible, mindful, and intentional are we being with the influence we have on our children?
I realized a long time ago that there is no way I can do everything correctly with my kids. It is impossible for me to instill in them absolutely every virtue.
I mean, let’s get real. I don’t possess every virtue, so how I could I possibly pass them onto my children?
Instead, my husband and I sat down several years ago and wrote out a family covenant. We prayed about it and thought about it and did a lot of soul-searching to narrow our priorities as parents down to a Top 5 list.
Our goal is to focus upon 5 characteristics, values, or virtues. I’m sure they will pick up others in the process, but by narrowing our focus I believe our chances for success are so much greater.
I will share with you our Top 5, but each family is unique and needs to pray about their own Top 5.
The Miller Family Covenant:
We proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We commit to loving God with all of our heart, our soul, our strength. We will live by the Spirit and seek God’s will in all that we do. We will make Christ the center of our lives and our family; striving to become more like Him each day. (Inspired by Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Joshua 24:15; James 4:7,10)
We commit to forever seeking to be imitators of God. We will strive for honesty, integrity, responsibility, humility, and loyalty. We will keep our commitments and follow-through on our promises. We will be witnesses with our actions and our words. We will make all that we do an act of worship. We will be what we believe. (Inspired by Colossians 3:23-24; James 2:18b)
We offer to one another the unconditional love that Christ has given us. We commit to being the tangible expression of God’s love for us. We will live with grace and compassion for one another, offering forgiveness and mercy. We will seek to understand, accept, and honor one another. (Inspired by Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We will show one another respect by both our words and our actions. We will be kind to one another, offering encouragement and support. We dedicate our lives to serving our God, our family, and others. (Inspired by Ephesians 4:29,32; Ephesians 5:21; Luke 6:31)
In all that we do, we will give God the glory. We acknowledge that all good things come from Him. We will be content with what we are given and be grateful in all circumstances. We will not worry because we trust that God will provide for us and protect us. We will be ready to share what we have with those that are in need. (Inspired by Philippians 4:11-13; Luke 12:15)
As you can see, we want our family to focus on loving and following Christ, having integrity and humility, being loving and respectful, and being content through gratitude.
When I see my children say and do things on their own that display these qualities, I know that I am on the right track. If I had no goal or if I had the goal of everything, I would be lost in my parenting. By narrowing my focus and making my faith the foundation of my life, marriage, and family, I have a target to aim for. I have a guide to align myself with.
So, yeah, hearing my son exclaim, “They’re kissing again!” makes me very happy. Glory be to God.