A famous poem begins with a standout line. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The Bible tells us the different ways we must love God. Let’s count those ways.
You must love the Lord your God. Loving God means we put him first. We are satisfied in our relationship with him. God is our first priority. Our love for God must be undivided. We willingly obey God. After all, we were created to be one with God. To be for him. Not against him. But in order to love God, we have to know him. And in order to know God, we must spend time with him.
Loving God means that we believe his word. His word is true and everlasting. He will not fail us. When we love God, we trust him. Loving God brings thankfulness and praise for him. When we love God, we must put him first with our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind. And we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Our hearts are beating vessels. They provide life on a beat by beat basis. If our heart stops beating, our life ends. So, loving God is the heartbeat of our life. It keeps us going. Our love for God continues as does a beating heart. And when the heart has problems, surgery may be required. Open heart surgery. And that can be life giving. Life renewing. Life sustaining. Loving the Lord your God may require surgery with precision to keep that heart beating in rhythm with him.
Loving God shows that we want to be in rhythm with him, keeping the beat in tune with him. Keeping our step in sync with him. One heartbeat after another in perfect rhythm, walking with God. Walking with God in perfect rhythm is love. That only happens when we have spent time in open heart surgery with God. Having him prune out the dead branches. The underperforming vines of our lives. We need this continual pruning. Our hearts must be strong following God’s will, walking in sync with him.
Love the Lord your God with all your soul. Our soul was made for eternity. The soul is the eternal embodiment of our human lives, and our soul is the part of us that will live eternally. We have the choice of where our soul lives. Heaven or hell. So to love the Lord our God with all our soul means we have made that eternal choice. We have chosen to live in eternity with God. That is the choice that we continue to make day after day after day. Because yes, each day we do have a choice of how we’re going to live. We must daily ask ourselves. Am I going to live for God or am I going to live against God. We can’t have it both ways.
Our soul is our sustaining breath of life, and it does not die. So once we move from this life into the next, our souls will continue to live in eternity with God if we have chosen to love and follow him. Because it’s not until we breathe our last breath on this earth that we move to our eternal destination. Heaven should be our only goal. Hell should never be our choice. But people choose it every day, perhaps unknowingly. But we have a choice. We can choose to live with God in eternity, where our soul will thrive in perfect beauty as we walk the streets of gold. Or our soul will be in eternal torment, because we have turned our back on the love of God. We repay Jesus Christ for His sacrificial death on the cross by giving Him our hearts, our souls, our minds and our strength. And that reward is our soul will be in eternity with him.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength. Our bodies are made for strength. If we work out our muscles, they will strengthen. That strength allows a person to lift heavy objects and perform great feats. But the process of building strength takes time and perseverance. Strength making takes discipline and hard work. Muscles must endure repetitious movements in order to strengthen.
When I think of strength, I think of power and endurance. Strength gives hope to the weak and power to the powerless. Strength allows one to hold on when they feel they’re at the end of their rope. Strength is only available through endurance, perseverance and struggles. It doesn’t just come naturally. Strength comes from putting in the time building up that reserve. Walking through difficult times. The athlete, or weekend warrior, becomes strong through repetitive motions through a routine that continually extends the ability of certain muscles, and strengthens and builds and empowers. Strength isn’t built by doing nothing.
When we say love the Lord our God with all our strength, it means that we have endured. We have endured, tough times. Uncertainties. Difficulties. Over time, we’ve learned that our strength is in the Lord, and that we can’t be strong alone. Our strength does not come from ourselves. It comes from God and God alone. And that strength flows over into love. Love for the one who was with us during that difficult time. Love for the one who empowered us to make tough decisions. Walk through flames of fire. Fight the battle between good and evil. God’s love is strength. So, in turn, he provides strength to those who love him.
And that strengthening love flows into other areas of our lives. When we must persevere in difficult trials and situations, or unexpected turns of life, the strength comes when our reserves are filled. Those times that we must dip into that strength shows the power available at just the moment we need it. That strength is everlasting. We must build up our reserves. We must put put forth the work that brings strength, that builds strength. Because in those tough times it will be that strengthening love that sustains us. If we’re empty. If we’re weak. Our love will grow cold.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Love the Lord your God with all your mind. Our mind is a powerful thing. At times, we think it knows no ends. Because we can remember many things. We can learn many things. We can think many things. At times, we’re easily distracted and other times our mind can be laser focused. We choose what we put into our mind. We make choices daily with the type of music we listen to. The shows that are streaming on our TV and movies that we choose to watch. We allow ideas to be placed into our mind by the books we read. And by the conversations we have. By the people we associate with. Our minds are filled with words and thoughts and dreams and goals.
We can control, to a certain degree, what goes into our minds. We have to know when to shut off evil influences, and we need to choose to fill our mind with godly influences, godly conversations, godly examples. We have that choice, but not always. Sometimes we run into situations where we can’t plan ahead, and we face evil influences. We don’t have to continue those. We can limit our interactions with ungodly influences. If those ungodly influences trigger our mind to sin and to dwell on inappropriate behavior or thoughts. If those ungodly books or movies or websites, or people influence us. We must stand for truth, because those evil influences do just as they say. They influence our hearts and minds. And that puts our soul in dangerous territory.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to others. How often do I wrong myself? Not very often. You say. So why do we do wrong to others? Why? This is not a romantic love. This is a godly, eternal love for our neighbor. Loving God is loving your neighbor. If we love God, it will change the way we love others. Loving God helps us to forgive those who have wronged us. Our love for God moves us to show grace to those who have offended us. Loving God is loving others, whether we realize it or not. Our love for God will naturally flow over into love for our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and even to the unlovable.
Loving others means that we love those we disagree with. Whether it’s social issues, political issues, family choices or lifestyles. Loving God means that we love everyone, as God has loved us. Because we too can be very disagreeable at times. We too can be unlovable at times. We don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them. We don’t have to be best friends with everyone. But we can choose to show godly love to everyone. Because everyone was made in God’s image. We are his image bearers. Let’s live like it.