When the teachers of the law asked Jesus what was the most important commandment, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
Jesus is describing how broad, deep and complete our love of God should be. It should include heart, soul, mind and strength.
With our heart and soul, we love God with our non-physical or eternal nature – that part of our inner being that uniquely reflects who we are as an individual person and creation of God.
With our mind, we love God with our physical or present nature – our intellect, thought, reason and will. With our strength, we love God with our actions supported by determination and perseverance.
To help us understand how to love an unseen God, Jesus gives a human illustration in what he describes as the second commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love of self, or survival, is one of the first laws of nature. It is instinct. We don’t even have to think about it. The love Jesus is calling us to embrace, however, is to overcome the instinct of putting self first. This is of course consistent with what he said earlier to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
So how do we love like this? John says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19) The God of all creation loved us so much that he became one of us and then submitted to a tortuous death for our sake. This kind of love involves humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice to the Father’s will.
We see this kind of love in soldiers who literally lay down their lives for one another in combat. We see it in parents who sacrifice in the care and provision for their children. We see it in a spouse who provides continuous, daily care to a terminally ill loved one.
We can also see this kind of love in the marketplace. In the 2008 economic downturn, a friend who owns a building supply company in Phoenix refused to lay off any of his employees even though it resulted in having to operate at a loss for some period of time. His love and concern for his long-time faithful employees overrode the need to operate a business at a profit for what he hoped would be a short-term cyclical retreat in the economy.
Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength starts with the little things. Let them become a habit, and we start to love God as Jesus commands.