As we have added children, we have also added baby gates. We now have one baby gate per child in our home. If you lost count, that’s four. We don’t even notice their presence anymore, as we have become so used to them. Yet they keep our children safe, from falling down the stairs, from going into areas that are not “baby proof.” Not to mention, they keep my kids from the stash of birthday and Christmas presents I have hiding in those sections of the house!
Recently, my nine-month-old snuck through a gate that was left open at the bottom of our stairs and crawled all the way to the top without us noticing. I know it was quick, but at that time he could have been seriously hurt if he fell. My husband found him and quickly returned him to the safety of the lower level and shut the gate behind him. The thought occurred to me that gates are only helpful if you actually use them. They do no one any good if they aren’t put into action.
Upon reading Matthew 22:41-46 and Mark 12:38-34, I came across a gate of our Christian faith. In both of these chapters, Jesus quotes the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 to the Pharisees who were questioning him:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Faithful Jews would have known this passage well, as they quoted it twice each day. It was a landmark passage for their faith. What strikes me as so radical is that the people that knew this phrase intimately would not know, indeed, not even recognize, when the God they were supposed to love with everything in them was standing right in front of them! Much like my open baby gates, the Law that was meant to point them to Christ was leading them to danger.
As I observe modern Christianity, I see this passage as a landmark passage for our faith as well. We do not necessarily ritually repeat this verse as the Jews did, but we do summarize Jesus’ teaching on the greatest and second greatest commandment. We put it simply into four words: “Love God. Love others.” I’ve encountered this phrase in multiple church mission statements and painted on church walls, labeled on Christian mugs and t-shirts, and tattooed on the arms of brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, I’m afraid that we are opening a gate to the life of a Pharisee. It may be so commonplace to us that it has become useless. Claiming to be mature with our catchphrase, we actually become more prone to folly. We are the babies. We climb the stairs only to fall.
Sisters, it is worth your time to pause and meditate upon Jesus’ words here. These words from Jesus should be familiar to you, but never useless, never ho-hum, never tired to your convictions or to your prayers. May the challenge to love God and love others never become so cliche that it is just our cultural background noise.
God is calling us to an all-encompassing love, and this love is a response to His all-encompassing love for us.
To truly love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind means to love him with your everything. When God says “all” in Scripture He means ALL, no part left out or forgotten. That means our total and complete love is to go to Him.
To love Him with your heart, kardia in Greek, means to love him with all your passions, desires, intelligence, will, character, and from the innermost secret places of who you are. To love Him with all your soul, psyche, means to love Him with all your breath and life, your very essence. To love Him with all your mind, dianoia, means to love Him with all your thoughts, understanding, imagination, and feelings.
Simply put, God is calling us to an all-encompassing love, and this love is a response to His all-encompassing love for us. We must realize it. We must receive it! He would not call us to this kind of love without first giving us bucketloads of it Himself. And He would not call us to this kind of love if we were not created to live it out! Yet, how in the world do we do that? We look to Christ! God gives us the most beautiful example of this love in Jesus Himself, who loved the Father and enacted this command from His own human words and deeds. And that love extended to others as well, as Jesus not only told but showed us how to ‘love thy neighbor.’
We must remember that the greatest commandment - to love - comes from a great God! He does not just challenge our lackluster love for Him but He also gave us Love Himself to redeem and restore our ability to love once again. One day, I will love the Lord my God with ALL my life and breath. Today, I see that I love Him more than the hour I first believed, but oh for grace may I love Him more! I’m praying God would help me repent of the “some” that should be “all” - that He’d help me receive His love in full and respond to it by how I love others. Help me not to fall through the gate, Lord. Teach me how to love you, great God!
Jillian Vincent loves Jesus. She's a wife, mother of two boys and a Dayton enthusiast. Jillian currently is a stay at home mama and spends nap times jotting on her blog and discipling other women. She would (almost) die for an avocado, a cup of coffee made by her husband, a novel that makes her cry, and a bouquet of sunflowers.