Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart

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“Feelings are feelings, they’re neither right nor wrong, it’s what you do with them that counts.”

How often have you heard this kind of sentiment?  (And interestingly, it is a sentiment!).

You’re probably as likely to hear it in church as anywhere else these days.  Even Christians will say we should only put acts of the will into moral categories.  According to this philosophy, all matters of the heart are ethically neutral.

But that’s not what we see in the bible.  In fact throughout the bible we see all sorts of expectations for our emotional life.  We’re meant to feel contentment  (Exodus 20:17), heart-felt love (1 Peter 1:22), peace (Colossians 3:15), zeal (Romans 12:11); sorrow and joy (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:4), desire (1 Peter 2:2), gratitude (Ephesians 5:19,20), to name just a few.

And right at the heart of the Old Testament we have the shema.  It’s quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment.  And it puts a bomb under our cultural stoicism:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

There is a logic to the verse: Because of God’s oneness we are to love.  As we discussed when we thought about “one flesh” – the way God is one is analagous to the way husband and wife are “one.”  They are united in love.  And as this verse says, “the LORD, our God, the LORD” is one.  God is one because God is love.  And God is love because God is trinity.

Therefore “thou shalt love.”  That’s the logic.  To know God is to become godly.  And to be godly is to love.

The first and greatest commandment (as Jesus called it) is directed emphatically at our affections.  We ought to be lovers of God, with our heart, soul and might.

The heart speaks of our innermost being.  It’s about what we treasure.  (Matthew 6:21)

The “soul” is the same word in Hebrew as “throat”.  It’s about what we thirst for.

Our “might” is our “muchness”.  It’s about our whole person given over to God.

The LORD does not want will-driven stoics but warm-hearted lovers.  This is the very essence of the Good Life which God has for us.

Of course commandments can never make us love God.  Yet this is a description of the Good Life.  And it’s not about grim-faced determinations to do right.  It’s about love – heart-felt, thirsty, mighty love!

The law can’t whip up these feelings and neither can we.  It’s only when we see His love for us that our hearts will be won (1 John 4:19).  But this is what the LORD’s salvation births in us.  Not a life in which our feelings are neutral.  The Christian life is an affair of the heart.

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