Love the Lord your God
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Mt. 22:37
I am glad that every puzzle comes with a picture of what it’s supposed to look like when it’s all put together or I would have a hard time doing it. One needs the big picture. But it’s also important to pay attention to the shape of each individual piece. To finish a puzzle you therefore need to be paying attention to the big picture as well as the small details of each piece.
In the same way, when we come to God’s word, we need to approach it with a telescope and a microscope. You need to see the big picture and you need to pay attention to the details in Scripture. What our Lord is doing here in the text before us is giving us a sort of big picture, telescopic view of the duty of his disciples as it should be read in the Bible. He is asked by a scribe (Mark 12:28) who was an expert in the Law of God (Mt. 22:35) “which is the great commandment in the law?” In Mark’s account, the question goes like this: “Which is the first commandment of all?” In other words, which of all the many commandments that God gave in the Scriptures is of first importance?
Jesus answers by quoting Deut. 6:4-5. The great commandment, the most important of all, is to love God with all of one’s heart and soul and mind. You simply cannot put your life together before God unless you pay attention to this commandment. This is the big picture. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention to the details. The details tell us how, practically speaking, we are to work out this great principle of loving God. But it is possible to get so enmeshed in the details of Scripture that you lose sight of this principle and end up perverting the Scriptures.
The purpose of the Scriptures is not to cause us to fall in love with ourselves. It is not there so that we can study it and show others just how clever we are. It is not there so that we can win theological debates. It is not there so we can stuff our heads with useful knowledge. Rather, the Scriptures are before us to put God before us so that we fall in love with him above all other people and places and things. And therefore it makes total sense that our Lord says that the great commandment is to love God with all our heart. Further, it makes it very important for us to truly understand what it means for us to love God and to become that sort of person.
When our Lord says that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Mark adds “strength” to this list; see Mk. 12:30), I don’t think he intends for us to see hard and fast distinctions between these categories. Rather, this is just a way of saying that we are to love God with our whole person. Our love for God is to be genuine, not fake. Our heart’s highest commitment is not to be divided between God and other affections; God alone is to hold that place.