“‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first commandment’” (Mark 12:30)
Because the Lord God is one, you can only love Him unconditionally. Jesus is simply quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Every Jew would know this passage by heart. This is a great insight requiring much reason. Because He is one, He is alone the source and goal of your affection. Many will assume it is natural to relate to God by requests – isn’t that what He is for, after all? When He fails to fulfill whatever it is that the praying person requests, sad to say, God is a failure. Does one with such an attitude deserve a retort, or will he/she be offended with the truth?
Real love is more than responding to demands. Because “the Lord our God is one,” you cannot do as the pagans, who search for the deity whom they think will best suit their needs. The Christian, like the good Jew, is ordered to love the Lord. It’s not an affection that one turns off and on, as do so many who say they love God when their prayers are answered. We are commanded to love God “with all our heart.” We love many during our lives – parents, siblings, friends, spouse and children – but none can share the whole heart devoted to God. Total devotion supplants all other affections. To love God without conditions means love without reservations. Heart love is complete surrender regardless of whatever happens throughout one’s lifetime. Dostoevsky describing his years in Siberian prison related the devotion of his fellow prisoners at holy services. They were murderers, thieves, terrorists and some without any visible redeeming qualities, and yet they were immersed in worship to the one God.
“With all your soul” calls upon the highest level of human existence, awareness that we share life with the animals, yet we are gifted with the capacity for rising above the moment and recognizing that we have soul transcending organic life. Part of us accompanies our bodies as long as the body breathes and blood flows through the system, and that supreme part is influenced by whatever happens to the mind and body, recording it all, much like the black box in an aircraft, not only surviving this lifetime but continuing onward to an everlasting existence. Those in touch with their souls praise and thank God with all the love they can muster.
“With all your mind and with all your strength.” Our Lord Jesus inserted the love of the mind before closing with the quote from Deuteronomy “all your strength.” His major emphasis throughout His ministry was to call upon all humans to turn from following their own arbitrary wills and to do the will of the Almighty in every situation, at every opportunity. “Let Thy will be done,” He affirmed on Gethsemane, knowing full well the implications of obedience to the Father’s will would lead soon after to the agony of the cross. Adam was not willing to do that – Christ the second Adam made it happen and made it possible for all of us to follow His example in our own lives. Loving God exclusively indeed requires all of our strength – mental toughness in every situation, if there is to be a victory over human weakness, arbitrariness, ignorance, and indifference. “He who endures to the end shall be saved.”