What does it mean to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength? What does that look like? The scripture we looked at this weekend was Mark12:28-34. The first question we have to ask is, do all those words mean the same today as they did when Jesus walked the earth with his disciples?
First, let’s look at the word heart. The 1st-century Jewish person would believe that the heart is much like how we view our hearts and mind. It was the place of physical life. The heart pumps blood and when it stops your body stops. It also was a place where your intellectual processes happened. You process things, make connections, and you gain wisdom all from the heart. You also feel your emotions in your heart. For example, you can feel joy in your heart (have a joyous heart), or you can have a broken heart (feel sad). Finally, you discern in your heart. You weigh your options and make choices of good and bad there. As I said, roles we today would give to our minds and hearts, during Jesus’ day they would have attributed to the heart.
Soul is another interesting word. We always think of the soul as the thing that inhabits our body, that might be the “real us” or our innermost being, and the thing that lives on after us. Yet, the scriptures hold this word differently. It frames it more as the whole being. An example of this is found on the new show Manifest. It's about a group of people that have something weird happen while flying on a plane. When they are landing the people on the ground, want to know how many people are on the plane. The captain replies with a number of “souls” on board. So today we have space and understanding of how the Bible uses the word soul, the way Mark uses soul in the Gospel, we just don’t immediately think of that use of the word.
Then there is the word strength. Strength is a hard word to describe. I like to think that the people who wrote the New Testament and the gospel were early followers of Jesus that were either Jewish or had strong Jewish backgrounds. We know Jesus is quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Here the word translated strength is also the same word in Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The word very is the same word as in strength in Deuteronomy. Weird right? In fact, when the word is used is used to add emphasis or meaning to the words around it. For example, someone is very wealthy, or something is very good. Eventually, it also included the idea of resources once the passage in Deuteronomy was translated from Hebrew to Greek before Jesus’ time. The Bible Project group made famous on YouTube, describe the word as “muchness” and I like that translation. Love God with all of your muchness, with whatever was said and more or abundantly.
Finally, I think the word love should be talked about as well. Love was never a feeling in the Bible, it was an action. God’s love is shown through his actions for his creation and people. Same is suppose to be said for his people. The people of God show their love through action towards God and his images aka other humans. Love is action.
So to pull this all together to show God’s love is to act upon that love with all of our mental capacity, emotions, and discernment, with all of our whole being, and with all of our muchness.
I think this paints an excellent picture that makes a little bit more clear the language being used. It also helps us to see why we call people saints. The people we have deemed as people who have really given their all for God. People who spent their lives pouring their mind, body, and resources into caring for people and this world. I also think that it helps widen the category to include us. The normal people. That it doesn’t require supernatural abilities or shining halos, but a willingness and commitment to devote our intellect, ourselves, and our resources. The idea of saints or even the greatest commandment does not start with a goal to be reached, but begins with what we have right now at this moment and builds from there. What good news!!!!
For more information on the words discussed check out the Bible Project and their videos on the words of heart, soul, strength, and love. I definitely used their videos to help break down these words, and they do it really well.