Monday, March 28, 2016

Love With All Emotion, Intellect, Subconsciousness and Strength

4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

God always reveals himself. Sometimes it is in a way that intrigues. Sometimes He reveals himself in such a manner that it fascinates and captivates the seeker. He finds himself compelled to want to more fully understand what the Spirit has revealed to him about God.

the Shema
Although the pronouncement of the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 is arguably the preamble of the monotheist claims of Christians, Jews and Muslims it is also, I believe, one of the most misunderstood revelations about the Lord [who] is one. Merely calling out “God is one!” “Allah is Great!” or “Jesus is Lord!” can make for great soundbites and slogans believed by those who profess them, but this does not equate to an understanding of God.

a common mistaken notion
Among Christians, monotheists and unitarians both share in a common mistaken notion this despite what they otherwise view between themselves as polar opposites of their beliefs concerning God. Both view and interpret the Shema with a numeric quantification of the expression, one. Similarly, Jews and Muslims quantify the expression of one in the Shema concerning the Lord. Yet, this seemingly cogent understanding among Jews and Muslims is hardly compelling. The process by which they profess to have grasped an understanding of the claims which God made to Moses and Israel amounts to nothing more than the same as the understanding of Christians. They all represent an incomplete understanding and an inept teaching of the Lord God who is one. Christians find themselves entangled needlessly and unfortunately in their efforts to understand and teach the Lord is one when they profess their faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, the apostle Paul and Jesus speak of and identify these entities as separate and distinct from one and the other specifically and deliberately with a clear purpose.

to be obeyed
It was the intention of God to impress in Deuteronomy 6 on Israel through his servant Moses how God is one, namely, that there is no variation, inconsistency or contradiction in the revelation of his will. This was true of God in the past, it was true of him in the present as he spoke through Moses, and it was to be true in the future when he spoke through his servants the prophets. What He impressed on Israel was that 1) everything God said was to be obeyed, 2) everything Moses said God said was to be obeyed, 3) everything the prophets said God said was to be obeyed, 4) everything Jesus said was of the Father said was to be obeyed, 5) everything the apostles said was of the Holy Spirit was to be obeyed, and 6) everything the saints in Christ read from the written word of God is to be obeyed. I find a very similar concept of unity and harmony expressed by the apostle Paul to the saints in Christ in Ephesians 4.

What stands out for me about what God revealed to Israel through the pronouncement of the Shema is a real, graphic call for the believer of the Lord who is one. It is, in the true manner of God, neither a vague nor a nebulous obscure incomprehensible mystery about God. It is not a task given or limited to scholars and so-called scholars to decipher the word meaning from the original language or to speculate as to the various and numerous possible meanings of the word.

It is love.

Love is not an insignificant reason. The immediate context in Deuteronomy 6 of God referring to himself as Lord and one was to strongly impress on Israel the unity and harmony which characterizes the nature of God. He calls Israel to love God with these various expressions; with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.

Jesus reiterated the Shema in Mark 12. Jesus added a fourth expression as to how the believer is to love God: heart, mind, soul and strength. I am amazed when I hear some believers who cite this passage in their lengthy research papers for no other purpose than as a proof-text that Jesus was, in their words, not mine, a “strict monotheist.”

What is it that is intriguing and compelling about the testimony of Moses concerning the Lord who is one? Why was Israel to love him with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might? Why are Christians to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength?

It is love alone which is able to convey in harmony and in unity a complete, full and mature response with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our soul, and with all of our strength. It is the stuff of scholars to offer Hebrew and Greek language definitions of these words and while these may enlighten the saints as to the lexical meaning of these words, it tends to do little or nothing to enhance their understanding on how so many different expressions of love can be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord who is one.

love or hate
It is not difficult. It is not inconceivable. It is not incomprehensible. It can be rejected. The truth is that heart, mind, soul and strength cover the broad spectrum of the human capacity to respond. Humans are just as capable of responding in hate with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul and with all their strength. Woe to those who find themselves at the receiving end of such hatred.

emotion, intellect, subconsciousness and physical response
The call for the believer to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength is to express that love emotionally, intellectually, subconsciously and physically. Love is not a feeling, but feeling as an emotion (heart) is just as much a part of the human response towards God, people and situations and circumstances in life. Intelligence (mind) as an expression of love may not evoke warm, fuzzy feelings, but the ability and importance of expressing ourselves through words is no different than God has done when he has revealed himself or his will. Humans have the capacity to express love even when, because of weakness, disorientation or simply at a loss for words, they are able to express, to animate, love, as it is said, naturally, without thinking about it, or subconsciously. (soul) Lastly, although in the moment one may resolve and resign themselves to an unwillingness to cultivate association with another human, an unwillingness to cultivate interaction with another human, an unwillingness to cultivate a connection with another human, yet, they will respond to the physical (strength) need of the person whether to give them a ride or to give them a water bottle.

The believer who loves God with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul and with all their strength is one. The believer is not being inconsistent or erratic. He is being one. The Lord is one. He is not being inconsistent or erratic merely because we might in the moment not understand the revelation of his will. These expressions of one are not numeric, quantitative values. They attest to the unity and harmony in the believer as much as what Moses said God said and what the prophets said God said is one; a complete unity and harmony with the will of God. The heart is not better than the mind or soul or strength in its capacity to express love. It is fitting that the God who is love (I John 4:8) would not only call those who believe in him to love him, but that he would reveal a brief glimpse of how the believer is to express that love with the heart, mind, soul, and strength.

There is a greater single overwhelming indictment and condemnation of what is called love towards God then when it is not love towards God. It is when supposed words of love or supposed actions of love are done under cover of masks, darkness and cowardice so as not to stand firm before those affected by our words and actions. This is true of greedy and fear-filled men in black masks in the middle east or in white hoods or three-piece business suits in America.

Make no mistake about it. It is not love. It is fear. There is no unity or harmony between those words and actions anymore than there is unity and harmony between darkness and light.

love x love x love

Love is not heartless. It is not selfish. Does it seem inconceivable to understand that this same love which the believer is to express towards God that he is to express towards himself or herself just as well? Even more, does it seem inconceivable to understand that this same love which the believer is to express towards God and towards himself or herself that he or she is to express that same love towards their neighbor? After all, how else are we to understand the words of Jesus that the second commandment is like the foremost commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself?

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