When one of the religious scribes asked Jesus which commandment was most important, He essentially quoted Deuteronomy 6 when He answered: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
With that answer, He was communicating that the expectations for God’s people has always been the same. That is, we’re to love God with our whole being. We’re to love Him “with everything we’ve got!”
But which comes first in loving God wholly? Is it the mind’s clarity or the heart’s purity?
Having done a quick word study, I realized that heart/mind was closely connected in the Hebrew language. This is not surprising based on my personal experience. Sorting through what my mind thinks and my heart feels can be excruciating. That is why feeding on Truth is essential to my soul’s wholeness and well-being. I can not love a God I do not know. And as I get to know Him, if there’s no love motivating me toward the relationship, then it will become stale and seem contrived.
I’m so thankful God gave us minds. I like to learn. Or maybe it would be more honest if I said that I like to be “in the know.” There’s something within me that is always stirring my mind to find the answer.
I want to know the difference … of all the things.
I want to know the reasons … for all the things.
I want to know who started thinking what, and when and why they started thinking it.
GK Chesterton said of our minds that we should “not be so open-minded that your brain falls out. Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” That’s good. But I’d take it even further. We shouldn’t open our minds so much that our heart falls out. In the grand scheme of things, it would be better to lose my mind than my heart. The bible says that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” We see the mind and the heart at work here. In this case, it would seem that the heart’s purity comes before the mind’s clarity. But how do we cleanse our hearts? We are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
See the dilemma?
Thankfully, Jesus’ answer to the scribe was not only something He taught, it was something He demonstrated. It was something He provided. Only through His sacrificial death and bodily resurrection do we have the capacity to love God as we ought. And even though we will daily fall short of whole-being love for God, because of our union with Jesus, what is true of Him becomes true of us. Though it is progressive for now (and not perfected), God enables us to obey this command to love Him with all that we are so that God is delighted.
The Psalmist sheds more light for me with this: “Give me understanding (clarity), that I may keep Your law and observe it with my whole heart (purity).”
The reason all of this is worth considering is because Christ Jesus said it is. In the midst of the voices rivaling for our attention, we need to train our minds and our hearts. We aren’t supposed to close our minds or guard our hearts so much that we hinder the transformed life to which we’ve been called. But we do need to recognize the essential component of Spirit-led meditation. Our hearts long for something to fill the emptiness and brokenness. So we open our minds to the Word of an omniscient God that we may learn from Him how to become whole. We pray for a heart that is purely seeking Him that we may know Him more and more. We pray for the desire to walk in this knowledge because He is worthy of our loving obedience. It’s a continual renewal of mind and heart.
“This means that the covenant love we’re called to must be wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to our God. And this God is our God only because he has now revealed Himself to us in the person of His Son. This kind of love we should have for Him doesn’t exist apart from love for Jesus — for Jesus and the Father are one. (Jason DeRouchie)
We love God only because He loved us first. We seek God only because He sought us first.
I’m so thankful that when Jesus stated the most important commandment that He didn’t expect us to try to accomplish whole-being love toward God without Him. (Romans 5)
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father.
And the king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord.
And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”