“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.”
For some time I’ve been thinking about what it means to love God with all one’s heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.
At the very least loving God involves ones’ emotion, cognition, and action; but what does it really mean to love God with all one’s soul? How does loving God with one’s soul translate into daily practice?
The soul is the indestructible part of personhood that remains after death. The soul of a believer will be immediately translated to glory, where it will live—free from pain and suffering—in unimaginable beauty and joy. But in some way beyond our finite understanding it will still long for the great day of the Lord, when Christ will return to earth to judge its inhabitants and will make all things new. Then our souls will be reunited with our resurrected bodies and we will enjoy an eternity of fellowship with believers in perfect worship of God and the Lamb.
Like Job, I know my Redeemer lives and he shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27).
This is the expectation of every believer for the future. But what does loving God with all one’s soul look like in this life?
The word “essence” captures the concept of soul. The essence of a person involves emotion, cognition, and action, but it is not limited to those aspects. We shouldn’t dissect our love for God and put it into neat compartments or categories. We shouldn’t think that we are loving him with all our emotion, or our cognition, or our action, and are, therefore, doing a pretty good job of fulfilling the command.
Our love for God includes all those aspects of our lives, but it cannot be separated into them. We are to love God even when we are depressed or anxious and our emotions are all messed up. We are to love God even when we are losing our memory or our consciousness and we can’t think properly. We are to love God even when we are weak or in pain and we can’t function physically. Our lack of ability in any—or all!—of these areas is no excuse for not loving God with all our effort. We must love God with our entire essence.
God breathed into man and man became a living being. In much the same way, God begins life and bestows a soul upon the tiniest child during conception. That child isn’t capable of emotion, cognition, or action; but that child has a soul.
We are to love God with everything we feel, think, and do. But let us not forget that we are to love God with the most irreducible aspect of being, which also happens to be the most inclusive aspect of being. We are to love God with the very essence of existence.