Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Love Your God: Conclusive Thoughts

Over the last week or so, I have been slowly taking a look at some of the deeper meaning behind what is called the "greatest command" in Mark 12. In the first installation, I talked about loving God with our hearts and making sure that we knew what the divine will and affections are so that we can bring ours in line with it. In the next post, I talked about loving God with our soul and gave some practical resources to start to get in touch with your non-physical body so as to be able to devote it to God. In the third piece, I talked about loving God with our minds and wrote on what the mind does and how to exercise it for God's Kingdom cause. In the last post, I discussed loving God with our strength and how this encompasses our physical bodies, our areas of influence in the world and our practical capabilities. In this conclusive post, I would like to draw these four together to demonstrate that what Jesus is really getting at -- and what the law was meant to portray -- is that we belong to God and he is ours in graceful union.

To me, these four specific areas seem to fall into a set of two couplets that encompass all of the relational facets of the human.

Couplet One
I see mind and heart making up the first couplet; here we find that Jesus is saying to love God with our intellectual and reasoning faculties, but to also love God with our feeling and wanting faculties. This seems pretty straight forward, but let's look at why this important. If a person were to compartmentalize their relationship with God (as most people are prone to do from time to time), there is a privation of total experience. For the intellectual person, we lose out on that deep-seated feeling of love; for me, this happens while working on my master's degree. I'll get so wrapped up in evaluating thing in a sterile, laboratory-type mental state that I forget that theology is inherently organic; it is natural, mystical and real as it is simply our thoughts and beliefs about God. It would be absurd to view my relationship with my wife as purely analytical and legal -- it would just be unhealthy -- so why should my relationship with my Creator be any less messy and intimate? it shouldn't. However, the pendulum can swing the opposite direction.

It is true that at times, people can compartmentalize in the other direction: with the heart. We get wrapped up in what it feels like to try to commune with the divine but in placing all of our focus here, we necessarily cut off the ways that we try and meet God via our minds. As one who has been in music ministry for more than half of my life, I can identify with this as well. It's easy to find "that song" or "that passage of Scripture" that just speaks to your heart and dwell so long on it that we lose out of the richness of fully engaging the couplet of heart and mind. Where this becomes detrimental to one's relationship with God is when our theology suffers because of our emotional longings. Sound theology, proper, demands careful thoughtfulness and passionate energy. Passion alone is like my two-year-old dancing and playing air guitar to the end music of his Scooby Doo movie; it's cute and beautiful in its own way, but it lacks grace, coordination and accuracy (he seems to switch from left handed to right handed guitar a lot). The better way -- the more holistic way -- is to love God with the entirety of this first couplet: heart and mind -- passion and intelligence.

Couplet Two
The second couplet, then, is clearly the two remaining ways of loving God: the soul and strength. Here we also see opposing facets of human relational capacities. Simply put, we are to love God with all of our physical parts as well as all of our non-physical parts. Just like the first couplet, we tend to compartmentalize or over-emphasize one of the two. When that happens on the soul side, we end up with people who are very "spiritual" without actually doing much. This can look like a number of things, but it is most apparent in one who is willing to say they're Christian, maybe post a lot of Christian memes on Facebook, maybe listen to "Christian music" (whatever that is) or maybe simply study and believe all the right things about God, but when it comes down to it, this person is not communing with the marginalized in their community; they aren't reaching out to the hurt and lost or (and this one is going to hurt, so please believe my intentions are good) perhaps this person is simply destroying their body with how they live their life. I don't mean substance abuse, but the just-as-deadly killers of the western diet and lack of exercise; there are far too many in ministry who don't talk about health and fitness because it indicts themselves and their lack of effort. Remember that it is a measure of love to care for our bodies and it is a measure of love to do good works for the Kingdom. Let us not be simply speakers, but also doers.

The other extreme, however, is the person who is willing to volunteer, is faithful to be in the pew on Sunday, bakes the casserole and writes the check, but does little to deepen their experience of the divine. This person may see the value in doing, but rarely feels that intimate connection to the divine except in emotional starts and bursts. There is no consistent awareness of the presence of God and there is little exploration away from their little island of theological awareness and experience. Just as it would be awful in my marriage to be content to take care the kids, do the chores, pay the bills and never connect with my wife on a deeper level than the transactional, never learn more about her and only grow closer in starts and bursts, so to is it with our relationship with God. Truly, humans are designed to need both sides of this couplet in order to have the fullest relationship with God.

Last Things
I think that if we really think about it these two couplets, when used to their fullest potential, not only yield the greatest expression of love to God, but also are a blue print of sorts to the best way to yield a vibrant relationship with God. Spanning the width of our minds and hearts while simultaneously reaching ever deeper into the fathoms of our soul and strength; this is the greatest command: that you should love God with absolutely every part of who you are. This is our design given by the divine.


p.s. If you liked this series, let me know! Also, share it with someone you care about :)

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