around me, by how I love my neighbor. To love God is to obey His commands (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13; John 14:21). But this love is more than just robotic service, it also engages our inner being.
We are to love Him. In the Hebrew mind, love is an action. Words are cheap. I don’t just say I love you; I show I love you by what I do. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says that God loves the orphans, widows and foreigners by giving them justice food and clothing and how God’s people are expected to follow His example. Jesus said that laying down one’s life for another (think of sacrificial giving) is the greatest expression of love. So, I show my love for God by how I love the people around me, by how I love my neighbor. To love God is to obey His commands (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13; John 14:21). But this love is more than just robotic service, it also engages our inner being.
We are to love Him with all our heart. Jesus’ culture understood the heart as the center of the human being. It is the home of thought and emotion, the place where desires are born and actions are determined. The heart represented the person’s whole being which is to be fully devoted to God. But our expression of love does not stop here.
We are also to love God with all our soul. The Hebrew understanding of soul was not like the Greek understanding (the part that survives after the body dies). For those speaking the Shema, the soul represented one’s life and body. It represented the full picture of their existence as a living, breathing, physical being. So, to love God with your soul is to devote your entire being—all the resources God has given you in your body and life—in an effort to love God and neighbor.
And finally, the Shema says that we are to love God with all our strength. In Mark’s version Jesus adds the word mind. What’s going on here? Well, in short, this is caused by a challenge translating Hebrew into Greek (what we read) or Aramaic (what Jesus spoke). Let me try to cut to the chase.
Asking if the “right” translation is strength or mind or something else is looking at this through a foggy lens. I look at it this way. As the final word in the list, the original Hebrew word (me’od) serves to intensify love, heart and soul and bring each one to its full capacity. Love Yahweh with all your heart—will, thoughts, desires and affections. Love Him with all your soul—with every part of your life and physical being. And finally, love the LORD your God all your “muchness,” powerfully devoting all you have, all you are and every experience you encounter as a way to love God and neighbor as yourself.
The Shema, and Jesus’ quoting of it, is a passage loaded with weightiness and meaning. What might God want to say to you through it? Are you willing to consider carefully how you listen to these words (Luke 8:18)?
I invite you to take some time this week to read Mark 12:28-34 a couple of different ways, reading for formation and not just information. Begin by meditating on this text through Lectio Divina (see "Reading for Formation" on 4/23). The next day, let the Lord speak to you through your life as you use this passage to practice the Examen (see "Listen Through Your Life" on 5/1). And now that you have thoroughly listened to God’s Word, use your final day to let these words guide your prayers to God (see "Praying Scripture" on 5/8).
May the Lord bless your listening and your ongoing conversation with the One who is always lovingly at His work, molding you more fully into His image.
Growing with you,