All: The big little word
During the same week in which he would later be crucified, Jesus fielded a scribe’s question about which of God’s commandments was foremost of all. Considering there were some 613 commandments under the old law, it must have seemed a reasonable question.
Jesus’ answer, recorded in Mark 12:29-30, is familiar: “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”
Meeting Jesus’ standard for loving God is rendered exceedingly difficult because of the significance of the easily overlooked word “all.” I consistently fall short of loving God with all of my being. In fact, if I could successfully love God to the level specified by this command, I would never sin, and neither would you – yet, we do sin.
I must love God above all else and with all of who I am – and Jesus talked about what this kind of love looks like. In John 14:15 he said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
This simple teaching leaves us with a tension: I know I am to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength; yet, I realize that too often, I fail miserably.
Because we are human, we understand that “all” is out of reach. We can’t meet the minimum standard of that big little word. That’s why Jesus and his sacrifice is our only hope. While we all fall short of God’s “all” standard every day, the good news is, we don’t enter the presence of God based on our own merit. God sent Jesus because He knew we couldn’t earn it.
So, is it worthless to try? Absolutely not! Of course, we try. Putting in the work to be better is our loving response for all God has done.
One scholar pointed out that to not try is to lower the standard of holiness – and it is never our place to do that.
What a blessing that through our obedience to the gospel, God has made his saving grace available to us! Are you growing in your love for the Lord today?