Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Leviticus 19:18

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Many of us think of these scripture passages as associated with Jesus, but along with Deut 6:4, this law, this commandment forms a part of a covenant that dates back thousands of years and has been prayed by Jewish people pretty much since the beginning of being Jewish.  They form the Shema, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.  This prayer is foundational, creating a firm ground on which the faithful could build a new identity, based on the worship and reliance of one God, as opposed to the many surrounding cultures that worshiped multiple gods.

Hear O Israel, the Lord is ONE.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your strength.  This One God with who Abraham had made the famous covenant that “you shall be my people, and I shall be your God”  This God doesn’t want mere obedience.  Doesn’t insist on sacrificial worship alone.  This God isn’t a god you can pick up and drop as you see fit.  The Lord is relational.  You will be my people, I will be your God.  We will be together.

Love the Lord, because the Lord loves you.

Love God.  I think that the only way we can interpret that word is through the lens of our own experience.  It is similar to calling God, Father…how your father has been and acted throughout your life is going to influence whether you interpret God the Father as fear inspiring, gentle and caring, focused on discipline or relationship or some combo of the lot.  Love the lord your God.   Love is so complex and diverse that some cultures and languages have multiple names for different kinds of Love, including   Hebrew and Greek.  Hesed in Hebrew means covenantal love, based on loyalty and loving kindness

Rach-a-mim is related to the Hebrew word for Womb and means compassionate merciful love, motherly love.  In Greek we are more familiar with Agape: brotherly love, charity and love of God.   Eros, from which English derives erotic.  Xenia; loving hospitality, moral care to stranger.

Love the Lord your God.  What kind of love are we to give?  This is personal to each of us, but I’d would say that whatever love you have…that is the love you are to give.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and strength.

Heart, soul, mind, strength.  Of these four it is the soul that confounds me.  We don’t speak of soul that often, and if we do it is only in the vaguest terms.  So, lets start with heart.

The love coming from the heart is I think, the type we are most comfortable with.  Romantic love.  Friendship love.  Familial love.  Emotional and uncontrollable love.   Love the Lord with the love a mother has for a new born and much longed for child.   Love the Lord with the intoxicating fervour of a new crush.  Love the Lord with the devotion and depth of a partner for their aging spouse.   We are capable of many kinds of love and all of it is due to God.  1 John 4:19 says “we love because God first loved us.”  God loved us enough to not only create us, but care for us.  When lied to, betrayed by and abandoned by many of us, God loves us enough to not only forgive, but pursue us like a shepherd, wanting us home.

We have so many kinds of love, because we are made in God’s image.  Creators, carers, lovers.  All that depth of emotional love, heart love is to be given to God.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart.  Seek after God as God seeks for you.  Spend time in prayer, devotion, silence and in joy.  Build up that heart felt relationship and come to love God more each day, as intimately as God knows you.

And know God.  Love the lord your God with all your mind.  This one is for all the academics, the logicians, people who live in their head.  Perhaps you don’t have that same crazy depth of emotion as your neighbour does, and that is ok.  After all we are called to love God with all our mind too, our rational, thinking, scientific and analytical minds.  After all we were given them to use!  Love God with all your mind.  Seek after God, study, learn, debate and question God.  Marvel, dissect, experience and see how God is a part of this world.  Take the time to dive into scripture, theology, and see what the saints and theologians say about God, take time to think about what you think about God.  Pour over the bible, analysing each word for the depth of meaning that God has imparted to us in them.

Do so with all your strength.  Loving God with heart and mind, and all the strength of heart and mind you can muster and perhaps strength also implies a strength of will.  Loving God with all your might, even when things are bad.  Willing, intentionally choosing to love God when you don’t especially like God, or feel God is distant or when the thought of God fills you with anger.  Loving God by having the strength to own your allegiance to God despite fears or even the experience of being mocked, dismissed or even persecuted.  Love your God with all your strength and intentionality.  Love God with the strength of the convicted, the martyr, the faithful.

Love the Lord with heart and mind and strength … and all your soul.  Love the Lord your God with all your soul.   As best as I can understand, the soul is the essence of who you are.  If you were distilled, rendered, refined until only the very essential, the purist and the most authentic self was left, that would be your soul.  The bit that makes you…you.  Unique and holy.   The piece of you that reflects God in you.  That would be your soul.  So, with everything in you that is unique and holy, that is essential and sacred…love God.  Love God as you love to breathe, to feel, to live…Love the Lord your God with all your soul.

This is the first and great commandment.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.   And the second is like it, love your neighbour as yourself.

If you were to read Leviticus you will see how seriously this was taken.  We often interpret this passage as the Golden Rule, treat others as you wish to be treated.  However, Leviticus goes commands love on neighbour in depth.  There are laws on how to treat others socially, sexually, legally.  How to deal with family, widows, strangers, orphans.  How to live your life, with others in mind…in finance, in business, in travel, in horticulture.  In every single aspect of life you shall, not should…you shall love your neighbour and treat them with the respect that is due to the laws God gives you.   If you rest on the Sabbath so shall the stranger in your house.  If you seek justice for your family, seek it for others with the same fervor.  If you see a foreigner in your land, invite them in your house, feed, clothe and support them in any way they need... as God has done for you.

All the commands set forth in Leviticus end the same way; “I am the Lord”, it is God’s way to be mindful of the other, to be just and to be compassionate.   “I am the Lord…and you shall love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself.”

It is not enough to treat others as you would like to be treated.  We are to treat our neighbour with the same love that we have received and been commanded to give.  A love that is full of emotion, full of truth, a strong and enduring love that comes from the very depth of our being.  We are to love one another as God loves us…why?  Because I am the Lord, says God.  Because that is the essence of God’s being and if we love God, we seek to be like God.  To love and live as God would have us live.

To love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.  This the first and the great commandment and the second is like it, love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commands hang all the laws and the prophets.

The whole of the bible.  The whole of Christ’s teaching.  The whole of God’s relationship.  The incarnation and resurrection.  The church in all times and in all places.  All is contained in these words.

Love God and Love neighbour.

There is nothing else needed.