Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Greatest Commandment

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:36-38

This greatest commandment, which is familiar to most popped into my head this morning, and it seems to me as if I'm noticing parts which were never there before. Maybe not so much parts that weren't there- but there are words that are showing themselves to be important, that maybe weren't before. It's easy to get the first part- Love the Lord your God with all your heart. I'm certain I've written before about whether or not we actually really love God all the time. But for the sake of making my point today, let's assume that yes, we love God with all our heart.

Then we move on to the next part- "and with all your soul". Hmm, let's think about this one for a minute. With all my soul is a little more tricky to identify. How do I know if I love my God with all my soul? Well, I like to think that I do- and here's why. When I am in a state of worship- or when I am reading my Bible or when I am having some quiet time, I feel as though something is trying to leap out of my chest. It's different than loving from the heart- it's as if my whole self wants to just bathe in whatever God is releasing at that moment. And I am eager for that all the time- I want more of God, so yes, I think that my soul is in love too.

Then we get to the third part, which is the part that I really think we all miss. Let's read it like this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind." Whoa there- back up a minute, does it really say that? And how is that even possible? I'm telling you friends, this is the tough one. This is the one that the devil tries to go after- and he goes after sneakily and easily. The devil dangles a latest bestselling book in front of you- everyone is reading it, you should too. Even though there's a part of you that isn't so sure you should be reading about vampires or wiccan spells, you decide it's just a book and it can't hurt, so you read it. What do you know? You've enjoyed the book! So you read more in the series- watch a movie when it comes out, and the whole time you're filling your mind with things of the devil and of this world. Or you're standing in line at the grocery store, and it is moving like molasses. What do you do? Are you sitting there seething on the inside? Are you getting annoyed with the cashier- with the people in front of you who pulled out that stack of coupons? Or are you patient, calm and ready to wait as long as it needs?

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind."

When you wake up in the morning, is your first thought a negative one? Are you angry with the alarm clock or the child who woke you? A beginning to loving God with all your mind is with the first thought of the day. When that alarm goes off, or that child taps on your shoulder, try thanking God for a new day first and foremost. Even before you turn off the alarm, think about God's goodness and the fact that you have a whole new day in front of you. Boom- right there, you've taken one mighty step in loving God with your mind. Loving God with our minds takes work- I'm learning that one myself. It takes a seriously huge effort. First, you have to recognize that your mind isn't where it should be- then you can take steps to correct it.

For me, those steps have involved what I'm taking into my mind. This has been a seriously tough one for me. I love to read books of all persuasions, and I love to relax and watch movies and TV, and I enjoy playing video and computer games. But I've become more cautious about what I pick up to read. If I'm going to be reading something for enjoyment, I want it to be uplifting, not depressing or sad, or filled with occultish concepts. If we're going to sit and watch a movie, I want it to be fun and exciting, happy with a good outcome. If I sit and watch a movie that's depressing or sad or scary or a movie that makes magic okay, it's not good for my mind.

I noticed something with the last season of Survivor that I watched. I found myself getting agitated as each episode went on. As people didn't get voted out who I thought needed to go, I got annoyed, and vexed with the show. I would turn it off at the end and I would feel all wound up- but in a bad way. Then, of course, it took a while to get that out of my head! When I spend a good hour or so dwelling on a silly TV show, somethings not right. Still, I enjoyed the show, and this year when it came time to watch, I recorded, but hesitated. Then I heard a few reports that this year the cast is particularly unpleasant and you know what? I erased it without watching. I just don't need to be filling my mind with things that are not of the nature of God. If a TV show makes me agitated or annoyed or angry, it's not something I should be watching.

And I really hesitate to say this, but I also think of watching sports in this vein. If I can't watch a sporting event for the pure fun of it- I can't watch it. If I'm going to turn on a football game, I have to not let myself get agitated if my team makes mistakes or loses the game. Honestly? I think this is huge- I think that sports can cause serious problems for people with their mind. My favorite sports to watch are the Olympic games, because while I may be rooting for a few favorites- the best part of the Olympics are that there is always a winner! And no matter who the winner is, or what country the winner is from, I can relate to their joy and I can rejoice with them.

I'm also finding that loving God with my mind includes random thoughts. This is where I suspect most of us fail each and every day- and I long for the day when I stop failing! Those random thoughts like "why can't that mother control those kids" instead of having compassion and understanding the struggle of a mom, I get all annoyed, because their noise is invading my ears. Or as I'm driving down the highway, I get stuck behind the one person who thinks it's okay to step on the brakes every 10 seconds or so. I'm thinking about how annoying that is to me, and how it makes me have to pay ever so much more attention, instead of thinking about why they are doing that. Maybe once upon a time they were in a horrible accident on the highway, and fear grips them each and every time they drive. With a prayer I could help release them of that torture, but no, I focus on myself and how I am not getting where I need to go as fast as I would like.

And the random thoughts includes everything, the "that person needs to exercise more" or "don't they brush their hair before leaving the house" or "I would never wear that out in public" or, well, really, everything that is a criticism of someone else is not the mind that loves God. And the Bible clearly says that we should love God with ALL our mind- not even just a part of it, but all of it. And I think as we learn to recognize the bad and correct our thoughts, we'll eventually get there.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:36-38

All, not some. Everything that Jesus mentions here in the commandment which He calls the first and greatest- it says all. It doesn't say love God with most of your heart, or a piece of your soul, or some of your mind. It says all. And I think as we become more aware of this, and ask God to help us to turn our minds towards Him and His ways, that the second commandment will become a walk in the park.

"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39

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