Loving the Triune God with Our triune Selves
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; cf. Deut. 6:5).
On this late Spring Ember Day, let us pause to ponder the most important words relating to the nature of God (which gives profound insight into our own nature as His earthly image bearers) and upon Christ Jesus’ commentary on them.
In the twenty-second chapter in the Gospel according to Matthew, he writes of a series of encounters, or rather, attacks made by the very ones John the Baptist called out as a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7). Beginning in verse twenty-three the Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead) begin attacking Jesus’ eschatology as they confront Him with a preposterous question pertaining to death, brotherly obligations and marriage in the afterlife. During His giving of a uniquely Christ-like answer, the Pharisees were listening in. “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law’” (Mt. 22:35-36)?
May I first put our Lord’s answer into a larger context by looking into all the profundity of His Jewish heritage by turning to The SHEMA: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4).
The SHEMA is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book (Siddur) and is often the first section of Scripture that a Jewish child learns. It sets their perspective on who God is for the rest of their earthly lives. During its recitation in the synagogue, Orthodox Jews pronounce each word very carefully and cover their eyes with their right hand. Many Jews recite the SHEMA at least twice daily: once in the morning and once in the evening. It is also sometimes said as a bedtime prayer. Thus, for the devout Jew, this three-dimensional view of God is central to their lives.
Perhaps it’s the fought of our early Sunday school teachers, or even those of us behind the pulpits, but we must remember that Jesus was born a devout Jew and He went to the cross as a Jew, along with all His disciples, and it is from this perspective that we must begin our search to know God. Christ Jesus answered His tricksters with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37).
As Christians we know that the Godhead consists of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and that this Trinity, is in fact, One. The SHEMA affirms this and our great Creeds further identify and break down the Trinity in all its glorious Triune nature. In our Lord’s answer, I want to point out that Jesus is commanding us to love the Triune Lord our God with our triune selves. How? Looking past the depth of man’s depravity, a result of Original Sin (Gn. 3:16-17), we must challenge ourselves to see, to actually come to grips with this immense reality, that it is only Man who walks the earth as God’s image bearer (Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 8 ) and it is upon this incredible fact that our Savior is touching. The SHEMA has defined the Triune God, separating our Jewish forefathers from every surrounding people group and radically personalizing who God is. Now, in this magnificent response, His only Begotten is giving us the key insight to overcoming all of life’s struggles and strifes. Once again, how?
When we truly and deeply love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls and minds where is there room left for any of life’s vices which falsely attempt to fill any of those spaces connecting the two triune natures? There simply and elegantly exists no void for these counterfeit gods to dwell.
When we love the Lord our God with all of these three parts of ourselves then there will be no room for the addictions, lusts, sins, etc. whish sit as imposters and thieves of our affection.
Instead of all the energy, time and monies spent on attacking all these various vices which plague our world, we should be teaching others how and in what ways they should be understanding who God is and how to love Him. If each of our three parts, created to individually and uniquely sell-out all of their love and adoration solely to our Creator, are actually allowed to love the Lord in the profoundly personal ways they were created for, all of our human nature will perfectly fit into all of God’s nature just as it was designed to do so.
The Enemy has come only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and it is upon this perfect union of our two triune natures which the Devil has drawn his evil focus. Whenever he can draw apart one aspect of our human trinity, our mind or heart or our very soul, he can cause us to become unequally yoked to a counterfeit god of our own making. This lie robs us of fulfilling and living out Christ’s words in Mt. 23:27 resulting in one or more of our parts of our triune nature becoming over or under developed. The great Reformer, John Calvin, wrote that our hearts are factories of idols and it is upon our earthly ability as creators (imitating our Creator) that the Satan has taken us captured. Knowing that we, in our fallen condition, are susceptible to falsely adorning anything and that we alone (apart from God) have been blessed with the ability to create (the Devil has no such power), the Enemy has fought to tear-away this ultimate truth on how we should both view and love the Lord our God.
This has left us in a weakened condition as we are only partly connected to God and partly connected to the created things in this world (Mt. 6:24; cf. James 4:4). May we come to approach our false gods from this new perspective. Instead of attacking them head-on, let’s first look to see which part of our triune selves is bowing in their temples. Is it our hearts, minds or souls which are giving adoration to the addictions or vices of our own making? Let us instead focus on attaching that wayward part of ourselves to the very part of God for which it was originally made in the beginning of beginnings.
This is not some new age gobbledygook nor an avant garde type of pseudo-Christian thought. Rather, this is the very perspective which first separated our Jewish forefathers from their pagan neighbors and the bases for which our Savior builds His entire theology: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37).