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Love of God

The first and great­est com­mand­ment of God is that His crea­tures should love Him.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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. (Mark 12:29–30, Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Deuteron­o­my 6:4–5)

This is the great and first com­mand­ment. (Matthew 22:38)

To love the Lord God with all one’s heart means to desire noth­ing but Him and His holy will. The heart is the cen­ter of man accord­ing to the scrip­tures and the teach­ings of the saints. It is the “deep­est part” of man, the foun­da­tion and guide of his life. What is in a man’s heart, and what his heart desires, is what deter­mines the whole life and activ­i­ty of the person.

For the inward mind and the heart of man are deep. (Psalm 64:6)

The good man out of the good trea­sure of his heart pro­duces good, and the evil man, out of the evil trea­sure of his heart pro­duces evil; for out of the abun­dance of his heart, his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34–35)

For from with­in, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, for­ni­ca­tion, theft, mur­der, adul­tery, cov­et­ing, wicked­ness, deceit, licen­tious­ness, envy, slan­der, pride, fool­ish­ness. All these things come from with­in, and they defile a man. (Mark 7:21–23)

My son, says the Lord, give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)

Accord­ing to the scrip­tures and the saints, man’s heart grows hard, fat, cold and cor­rupt when it is stub­born and rebel­lious against God, depriv­ing itself of His Holy Spir­it. Many times and in many dif­fer­ent ways this is said in the holy writ­ings. (Deuteron­o­my 6:7, Isa­iah 6:10, Jere­mi­ah 5:23, Zechari­ah 7:12, Mark 8:17, Matthew 19:8, et al.) But when man sins, the Lord still loves him faith­ful­ly and puri­fies his heart by grace in order that he might be saved for ever­last­ing life.

I will give them a new heart, and put a new spir­it with­in them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordi­nances and obey them; and they shall be my peo­ple, and I shall be their God.

Repent and turn from all your trans­gres­sions, lest iniq­ui­ty be your ruin. Cast away from you all trans­gres­sions which you have com­mit­ted against me and get your­selves a new heart and a new spir­it. For I have no plea­sure in the death of any­one, says the Lord God; so turn, and live.

A new heart will I give you, and a new spir­it will I put with­in you… I will put my Spir­it with­in you and you shall live… (Ezekiel 11:19–20,18:30–32, 36:26–27, 37:14; cf. Psalm 51:10; Jere­mi­ah 31:31–34; Isa­iah 57:15–18; Joel 2:28–29)

God gives a clean heart and a new and right Spir­it to man that he might love Him in return with all of his heart. This is giv­en in Christ, in the Holy Spir­it, in the Church of the new and ever­last­ing covenant. It is giv­en that man might ful­fill the first and great­est com­mand­ment of God. (cf. 2 Corinthi­ans 3–5)

To love God with all one’s soul means to love Him with every spir­i­tu­al pow­er and with the whole of one’s life. Some­times the word soul is used as a syn­onym in the sacred writ­ings for life itself. Man’s soul is his life, all of his life. When one loves God with all his soul he loves Him and serves Him in what­ev­er he does, doing all things “to the glo­ry of God.” (cf. I Corinthi­ans 10:31)

To love God with all one’s mind is to love God’s Word, to serve God’s trust, to delight in God’s right­eous commandments.

…I find my delight in Thy com­mand­ments which I love, I revere Thy com­mand­ments, which I love, and I will med­i­tate on Thy statutes.

Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my med­i­ta­tion all the day. I have more under­stand­ing than all my teach­ers, for Thy tes­ti­monies are my meditation.

There­fore I love Thy com­mand­ments above gold, above fine gold. There­fore I direct my steps by all Thy pre­cepts; I hate every false way… give me under­stand­ing that I may live.

The sum of Thy word is truth, and every­one of Thy right­eous ordi­nances endures forever.

I long for Thy sal­va­tion, O Lord, and Thy law is my delight. (Psalm 119)

The love of God with all one’s mind is the “love of the Truth,” and those who refuse such love are those who will per­ish. (cf. 2 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 2:9–11) The mind of man is the guide of his life, direct­ed to truth by the puri­ty of his heart. When one loves God with all his mind, he is not “con­formed to this world” but proves “what is the will of God, what is good and accept­able and per­fect.” (Romans 12:2) He is the one who fol­lows the advice of Saint Paul, and thinks sole­ly and con­tin­u­al­ly about “what­ev­er is true, hon­or­able, just, pure, love­ly, gra­cious, if there is any excel­lence, if there is any­thing wor­thy of praise…” (Philip­pi­ans 4:8) He is the one, in a word, who has “the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthi­ans 2:16)

To love God with all one’s strength is to be spir­i­tu­al­ly vio­lent in the pur­suit of God’s will, in order to do it.

…the king­dom of God has suf­fered vio­lence, and the men of vio­lence take it by force. (Matthew 11:11)

It means to do every­thing to please Him, with all of one’s ener­gy and pow­er, to serve Him faith­ful­ly and patient­ly in all things until death. It is to strug­gle to resist sin and every evil “to the point of shed­ding your blood.” (cf. Hebrews 12:4) It is to have, once again, the atti­tude and virtue of Saint Paul.

We have this trea­sure in earth­en ves­sels to show that the tran­scen­dent pow­er belongs to God and not to us. We are afflict­ed in every way, but not crushed; per­plexed but not dri­ven to despair; per­se­cut­ed, but not for­sak­en; struck down, but not destroyed; always car­ry­ing in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be man­i­fest­ed in our bodies.

…but as ser­vants of God we com­mend our­selves in every way through great endurance, in afflic­tions, in hard­ships, calami­ties, beat­ings, impris­on­ments, tumults, labors, watch­ings, hunger; by puri­ty, knowl­edge, for­bear­ance, kind­ness, the Holy Spir­it, gen­uine love, truth­ful speech, and the pow­er of God; with the weapons of right­eous­ness for the right hand and for the left; in hon­or and dis­hon­or, in ill repute and good repute. We are treat­ed as impos­tors, and yet are true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as pun­ished, and yet not killed; as sor­row­ful, yet always rejoic­ing; as poor, yet mak­ing many rich; as hav­ing noth­ing and yet pos­sess­ing every­thing. (2 Corinthi­ans 4:7–11, 6:4–10)

The one who loves God per­fect­ly is the one who loves Him with the pow­er of Christ and the Holy Spir­it, the “pow­er… made per­fect in weak­ness.” (I Corinthi­ans 12:9)