Who do you love the most? What makes you choose that person? How is your love uniquely expressed to that person? The other day, I was reading what is called “The Greatest Commandment.” Jesus told the disciples, “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). I have always thought Jesus used four different nouns to emphasize that we should really love God wholeheartedly. But curiosity got the best of me, and I ended up researching the extensive meaning of the Greek words heart, soul, mind, and strength. After all, those who listened to Jesus understood the nuances of each of these words in their language.
The word that really challenged me is the word heart (“kardia”). It is defined as “the center or seat of a physical and spiritual life. It is the seat of our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors, intelligence, will, character, and emotions” (Interlinear Concordance). It is the central inmost part of everything in us. Think about this. What Jesus is telling us is that we are to surrender all these areas of our lives to Him to love and serve God. Are our thoughts displaying love to God? Are our affections honoring to the Lord? Are our purposes and endeavors a reflection of our love for God? Are our emotions and passions an overflow of a deep love relationship with the Lord?
Our soul (“psyche”) is defined as “the breath of life; the part of us when aided by God can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness; designed for everlasting life and is not dissolved by death” (unlike the body). This brings up the question: Are we living for eternal purposes? In making major decisions, are we doing this in light of the fact that we are all eternal beings with an eternal destiny?
The word mind (“dianoia”) has an interesting and unexpected piece in its definition. It is “the faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring, thinking, and imagination.” So often, Christians stifle their imagination when thinking about relating to God. Let His Spirit speak to you in poetry, music, art, dance, visions, dreams, pictures, analogies, and stories. Don’t limit how the Lord wants to speak to you and through you to others. When you worship the Lord, use the fullness of your mind, including your imagination.
The final word used to describe how to love the Lord is strength (“ischys”). The description of this word is “ability, force, strength, might, and power.” Loving God is not a passive activity. Worship Him with all your strength. Follow Him with all your abilities. The Lord has endowed us with talents, interests, and learning/training. Use all of this for His glory. Ask Him how you can use all your abilities to serve Him. Then put your full effort into it. However, remember to combine this with a dependency on the limitless power of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used for strength/power in this verse is ischys. Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8 that the Holy Spirit wants to give us power, but He uses the word dynamis from which we get the English word dynamite! We can depend on the Spirit to help us to love God with supernatural strength.
As we study these words, it gives us a much deeper understanding into the love Jesus calls us to have for God. For us to love God in this way, we need to be fully surrendered in every area of our lives. Every relationship. Every ambition. Every thought. Every activity. Every possession. Every dream and goal. Every moment. And every fiber of our beings. This is what it means to love God. Yes, in this we need help from God. Dear Lord, fill us with the power (dynamis) to love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!