Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV
Jesus said to him, “‘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.”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul admonishes us to seek love over all things, even over faith:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (v. 1-2 NKJV).
Unfortunately, the English language fails to grasp the extent of what Paul is saying. In the Greek, there are three words for love. One means the love between a man and a woman. One means the love between friends, and one means the love that God has toward us. This kind of love is agape. It is the word used in John 3:16 to express God’s love that sent the Lord Jesus to die for our sins. It is the word that Jesus used in Matthew 22 as our response to God. We are to agape the Lord our God.
This kind of love toward God is pervasive, all-encompassing. The Lord Jesus tells us that we are to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds.
The word translated here heart is kardia. Strong’s defines it as our thoughts or feelings. Paul talked, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, about taking every thought captive unto Christ. But this is even more. It is also involves our feelings. Feelings, particularly how we view them in America, are an interesting phenomenon. If one were to believe some psychologists, feelings actually exist with a life of their own and must be acknowledged, even obeyed, because they simply come; we cannot control them.
Darrell Yardley, a licensed professional counselor, wrote:
“Our feelings are just our feelings. Not good, not bad, just feelings. We have little affect on how we feel about something” ( http://www.horses-helping-troubled-teens.com/psychobiology-of-emotions.html).
Steve Pavlina, a self-development guru, wrote in his blog:
Our feelings are a natural response to our thoughts and intentions. We don’t really choose our feelings directly. Our feelings are a feedback mechanism. They indicate whether we’re moving into alignment with our true desires (positive feelings) or out of alignment (negative feelings). Simply put… we feel good when we’re moving towards what we want, and we feel bad when were moving away from what we want. (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2007/09/feelings/).
Obviously secular thought has made feelings neutral. The Lord Jesus Himself, however, taught that there were evil feelings which came from the kardia and which produced sin:
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart (kardia), and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matthew 15:18-19 NKJV
That is actually good news for the Christian because it means that we can take authority over our thoughts and feelings. When we want to learn to truly love God, we can focus our thoughts on Him, on loving Him, on serving Him, on pleasing Him, on worshiping Him. John Wesley wrote:
“When, in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we pursue nothing but in relation to Him and in subordination to His pleasure, then, and not till then, is that mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus” (Renew My Heart).
As with Paul, we can take our thoughts captive, refusing to dwell on those things which are not pleasing to God, and focusing instead our thoughts on Him. And if our thoughts are focused on God, our feelings will follow!
Now, if we simply loved God with all of our heart, we could stop there and it would permeate our being. But the Lord Jesus goes on. The command is to also love God with all of our soul. The Greek word used here is psuche. Strong’s defines it as the very breath within us. With each breath — with that which sustains us — we are to love God. For me, this is almost like purpose, focus, appointments, tasks, goals. In everything that I do, the ultimate purpose should be to show my love for God by doing what pleases Him. Even when I take a breath (which we, as humans, do automatically), I should be breathing in praise to Him, in worship of Him, in love for Him. It becomes like 1 Thessalonians 5:17, a prayer without ceasing.
The Lord Jesus also tells us to love God with our mind, our dianoia. Strong’s defines this as imagination and understanding. When we dream, do we dream of God? When our thoughts wander, do they wander to Him? Does He overwhelm our focus to the point that every thought winds its way to Him? Is everything that we learn and understand filtered through our love of Him, our devotion to Him?
The Lord Jesus explained that if we seek to love God as this, the natural outpouring will be love for others. I’m not sure but that there is no other way to learn to love those around us but to first focus our love and adoration on the Holy Trinity. To be honest, loving Him should be natural to us because He so first loved us. But we are bombarded with the demands of so many other things in our lives. We need to consciously devote our thoughts and feelings, our very breath, and our imagination and understanding solely to loving Him. If we can learn to do that, then I’m convinced that the rest will take care of itself.