Father, teach us something new, give us a new revelation of yourself.
Early when Sara and I started dating, she asked me, “Why do you love me?” And I paused. The gears in my head start turning, and you start thinking “this is a trick question…” and then she continues, “Will you still love me if I had a car crash and was disfigured? If I couldn’t move my body? What if I was a vegetable?” and now, I start panicking because I knew surely this is a trick question. If I name any one physical attribute of hers, I would be shallow. If it wasn’t physical, she wasn’t pretty enough. See, to me, it was a trick question, to Sara it was serious. She was assessing my credibility as a present boyfriend and future husband. There is an idea in her head of why she ought to be (deserves) loved and she is assessing if I meet that idea in her head.
Why do I love?
One day, I thought about this and asked myself, “Why do I love God?” We all know the Greatest Commandment, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But why? Is there a difference between why I love God and why God deserves to be loved.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘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 with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus said: “The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord…” This is a scripture from Duet 6:4-6. So what is so special about this statement?
This verse is the Jewish Shema (Yisrael).
- The core prayer of the Jews, the most important part of their prayer service.
- They recite it when preparing to read the Torah on festivals and feasts and on the most holy days.
- It is the first thing that is taught to children, the pray that is said when they wake up and before they sleep.
- They would recite it just before they die – the ultimate manifestation of faith in the gravest situations.
- When they recite it, they mention each word very carefully and intentionally.
- The first word Shema means listen/hear and do.
The Shema is loaded with meaning and tells us much about God. It asserts that:
- That the God we serve is Jehovah God – an infinite, eternal, perfect, self-existent and self-sufficient God.
That God as such an all-powerful, big and mighty God! God is God, He is NOT:
- God is not just a santa-claus and gives me gifts
- God is not just a miracle doctor and heals me
- God is not just a divine destiny planner and gives me a hope and future
- He is not just a marriage counsellor and fixes my marriage up
I’m not saying that He doesn’t promise these things or that He doesn’t want to give them to us. He does because His nature is good and loving. But He is still God. He retains the right to do as He pleases.
- He is the only living and true God, only He is God and He alone – no other God.
When you understand that God is ultimately powerful. There is no equal. There is only one Jehovah and He is God.
- God is singular, He is one – Not a two faced God – Hindu. Not a number of Gods – Greeks/Taoist. Not an impersonal/neutral God – Buddha.
- He is not good one day and evil the next or half-half, He is singular in nature; He does not change.
- Even if the circumstance in my life changes, God does not. He is still good. He is still in control. If my illness doesn’t get healed, if death is knocking at my door, God is still God.
Note that the word one (ehad) can mean unity in diversity, not unique singular one – yachid. E.g. Genesis2:24 – one flesh (basar echad).
So when a Jew says “the Lord our God, the Lord is one”, it is an extremely high view of God. He is fixing his whole being on the all-powerful, all-mighty, all-knowing, all-everything! When a Jew recites the Shema, he is a living witness testifying to the sovereignty of God / God’s kingship in every circumstance. No matter what our circumstance – our God is still the only one true God, and He is my God.
When they recite the Shema, their focus is not on what they can get from God, it’s about God. They take their eyes away from their circumstance and look at God who is God.
So back to the question of why do we love God? I think we have something to learn from the original context of the Greatest Commandment in the Shema.
We love God because we have a high view of God’s being – God is God. And this huge all-powerful great God, humbled himself for us and has an intimate personal relationship with me! We can love God because of His being, not because of the circumstances in our lives. Not because one day God seems to be good and the next day bad. God deserves to be loved simply because He is God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Its easy to love God when He is God.
“Love your neighbour as yourself”
How does this understanding affect our love for others? Well we love God for His being. We love others that way as well. I love my mother because she is my mother, not because she can cook well or help me look after my future children. I love my son because he is my son, not because he is obedient or does well in school. And that’s how God loves us! He loved us while we were still sinners! We can even love our enemies because right at the core of their being is still the image of God (not their nature)!
Thank you that you are God. That you are sovereign over everything. Sovereign over every circumstance. Thank you most of all that we can know you in an intimate and personal way. Thank you for showing us how to love and for loving us in that way, give us your heart that we can love as you love.