What is the significance of the command to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
The first verse that commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is Deuteronomy 6:5. Deuteronomy 6:4–5, known as the Shema, says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." This same commandment was cited by Jesus as the "greatest commandment in the Law" in Matthew 22:36–37. In this passage, the word "mind" is substituted for the word "might" or "strength." Mark 12:30 records Jesus as saying, "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." Here the word "strength" is used, as in Deuteronomy. Both words indicate an effort involving all one's might. Taken together, the verses indicate a monumental effort to love God.
So monumental is the effort required that no human being can accomplish it. Our fallen nature makes it impossible for us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength for even one minute of one day. Man is simply incapable of such a task. But still we are commanded to do so, and to disobey any commandment of God is sin. Why, then, does the Bible give us a commandment we can't possibly follow? Jesus continually reminded the Pharisees of their inability to keep the Mosaic Law, which they believed they were doing. He boiled down the hundreds of laws into this one law to prove to them their inability to keep the Law of God. He wanted them to see their utter spiritual bankruptcy and their need for a Savior.
The same is true for us today. Reading that we must love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength should prove to us that we sin each time we fail to do so. This should drive us to Jesus Christ, who provides the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin. Without the cleansing of sin that He provides by His death on the cross, we would be continually guilty of failing to obey the greatest commandment. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is impossible. This is a daily reminder of our need for the Savior.
Certainly, if we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we do love God. As we grow and mature in the faith, our love increases and we obey Him out of love more and more. Although we will never reach the point of loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, our desire to love Him more completely increases as we witness His compassion, mercy, grace, and love for us. In addition, coming to know more about His hatred for sin, His holiness, and His righteousness makes us more eager to obey Him and to live our lives in such a way as to honor and not to displease Him.
We increase our love for God by knowing Him better. We do that by study of the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers who also desire to know and love Him, and seeking to obey and honor God in all things. This leads to a better understanding of Him, a greater love for Him, and an eagerness to share Jesus Christ with others. In heaven, when we are released from the sin nature that prevents us from loving God fully, we will be able to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
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