It began as a test.
In Mark chapter 12 a group of religious leaders descended on Jesus and peppered Him with questions—for the purpose of trapping Him. They drilled Him on tricky subjects, such as taxes and the resurrection. And Jesus—confident and compassionate and clear—answered each one.
Eventually, one man stepped out from the crowd. This scribe had been listening to the conversation, and he was impressed by what he heard. He believed that perhaps this Jesus did have some wisdom to impart, so he cut to the chase.
“What commandment is the most important one of all?” he asked.
Jesus didn’t miss a beat. He responded immediately by quoting from the law—Deuteronomy 6, as we know it. “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. And You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When the scribe heard this, he actually agreed. “To love God with all the heart and with all the mind and with all the strength—and to love one’s neighbor as himself—this is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Then, it was Jesus’ turn to be impressed. “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” He told the scribe.
And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.
“To love God with all the heart and with all the mind and with all the strength—and to love one’s neighbor as himself.” It’s the greatest commandment ever given. It’s the most important lesson we could ever learn. It’s how both the Old Testament law and the Lord Jesus Himself describe a life well-lived.
It begs the question, though; doesn’t it? How exactly do we do that? Surely loving God with our heart involves more than just mustering up increased emotion. Surely loving God with our mind doesn’t simply mean we need to think about Him more. Certainly loving God with our strength isn’t just about doubling down on our exercise routine.
So then, what are we meant to do—really?
I’ve been chewing on this command to “love God—heart, soul, mind, and strength” for many months now. I often tell people that—really—it’s the thesis statement for our little book, as grandiose as that might sound.
Last spring, Peter and I prepared a series of retreat sermons on the subject. I’ve had the joy of delivering those messages a few times now, and each time I do, I see something new.
So now I’d like to bring the conversation to This Odd House—not because I have it all figured out. Far from it. Rather, because I anticipate a lifetime of exploring this greatest of all commands—and I could do with some company.
For the next several blog posts, then, I’ll share some of my discoveries and challenges, victories and defeats. And I look forward to hearing your insight as well.