Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (NIV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.
Moses was addressing the children of Israel after almost 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. As they prepared to cross the Jordan to enter the land the LORD had promised to them, Moses reminded them of all that God had directed him to teach them.
This passage in particular is familiar to us. It resonates through the synoptic Gospels either in the words of Jesus to those who questioned him or, in Luke’s Gospel, as a response to Jesus by one of the teachers of the Law. And we should not be surprised by this; the Shema, as verse 4 is known, has been and continues to be recited at least daily by all devout Jews.
Often today we hear of and use the term “half-hearted”. Sporting commentators disparagingly describe the “half-hearted” efforts of a lack-lustre football team. In a military context, “half-hearted” can describe a less-than-committed action by one side which allows the opposing force to inflict a convincing defeat.
Half-hearted commitment leads to defeat in the spiritual realm as readily as in the temporal. If we love God with only half of our heart, the evil one will occupy the other half and then try to capture it all.
Jesus did give his disciples a new command, to love one another. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13: 34). However this new command was not to take precedence over the love his disciples were then and are now to have for the Father. An expert in the law tested Jesus with this question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Matthew 22: 35-39).
This command should be central for every Christian just as it was and is for every devout Jew. Half-hearted love for God brings him no glory. It is for his glory that we love him, not for any benefit we might thereby derive by expressing our love for him. Let us resolve to be unstinting in our love towards our God: with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength.