The Quiet Earth and Loving God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
Deu 11:13 “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”
Deu 11:22 “For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him”
Jos 22:5 “But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Mar 12:30 “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment.”
Luk 10:27 “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
Mat 22:37-38 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
What does it mean to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? The word here for “all” in Greek is “holos”, and it means, “all, whole, completely” and is also translated in the KJV as meaning with “every whit”. So this means if your heart, soul, mind, and strength were a pie chart, each of these would show 100%, the full pie, of which you love God with. Loving God with all your heart would include with all the thoughts, intents, and emotions of the heart, reasoning and understanding of your mind, with all the imaginations of your heart and mind, with all the strength and will that you have, with all your soul, with everything you have 100%.
Sometimes it seems that what actually happens in practice is that instead of focusing on giving and using the quantity of 100% of our heart, mind, will, and soul, we try to replace quantity with quality. Our thoughts might only perhaps be on God a few periods throughout the day, the rest of the time our thoughts are on other things, and our emotions are wrapped up, not in God, but in those other things. Those thoughts more often than not include things like work we have to do, and the routine issues of life, and even just trivialities of the world and things in it that the Bible reminds us are passing away, or perhaps even more so, we are focused on other people, or groups of people, or on ourself, and our own abstractions of priorities that are self-focused, things like self-estimations and self-pleasures. And our emotions are wrapped up in these sorts of things, our hearts interdependently wrapped up with our thoughts. But during the times in which we do think on God, we try to give Him 100%, we try to be pure in our thoughts and emotions, try to please Him, with a sincere willed effort of high quality of love towards Him present.
So a Christian might wake up and pray to God for a little time, but then the time with God is over, and it’s off to racing about what needs done that day. Insomuch as there will be interactions with others that day, it’s things like what to say in an upcoming moment, what to wear, how to act, and very likely especially, what other people will think, in every way that other people’s thoughts might effect our life. There are so many things to think about, news, and sports, and activities, entertainments, and of course the latest tidbits going on with other people in our life and what’s going on with them. But how much throughout the day does God leave our thoughts completely for expanses of time, thinking about other things, or other people, and having our emotions go up and down, as on waves being made by our thoughts. Just how much do we care about all these things and other people, which are not God?
But when it’s time to go back to God, thank Him for a meal, or see some problem we ask in prayer for His help on, or some situation we think on as to what we could do that might please Him, then it is with great quality of sincerity we spend that time with Him, trying to give Him all of our attention, all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, in loving Him. So in that time that we are with God, we give Him 100% and try for quality…. but we don’t give Him 100% quantity. How can we be giving Him 100% quantity when our minds and emotions are very often on something else?
So perhaps there has been some misunderstanding here… is it really anything but natural that whatever we are focused on, we rather easily may choose to try to focus on it with our full attention in the moment? If our thoughts, feelings, will, everything we are, is focused fully on God with love for some minor percentage of a day, is that really what He is commanding us to do with the first and great commandment? If that is the standard, then anything and everything we focus on for any length of time, giving it our full attention, feeling love towards it, we are in fact loving it with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So surely that is not what the commandment means. By that standard, watching a movie you love that is an old personal favorite, enjoying it with rapt attention, your emotions and thoughts wrapped up in it, is loving it will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength cannot be just a matter of quality. We are living creations passing through time, four-dimensional creatures, so “all” must also be a matter of quantity over time. All your heart means all your heart as you pass through time, not just some of the time. The pie chart should not fluctuate from showing 100% to 50% to 0% throughout the day, but the commandment itself is applicable to every moment in every day. The circle is meant to read 100% to God all the time. Maybe that might seem a near impossible standard to reach, and it might even be understandable for people to balk that this is not what Jesus’ commandment must have really meant. But it seems to logically follow that if 100% is what God wants in one moment, then 100% is what God wants in every moment, at least trying for this ideal goal with all the will we do have and strength we can muster. If this is what God has commanded us to do, then though it might seem an impossible goal to reach for, it cannot be, as all things are possible with God, and God wouldn’t command us to do what is impossible for us to do anyway.
It seems that what we have been taught, perhaps not formally but just by the impressions we receive from everywhere, even from both the world and from the church, is that it is normal and acceptable in everyday practice to give God equal footing with everything and everyone else. Excepting that we know that what God says is more important, what He wants governs over all else and all other matters, the fact is that in practice God is still placed on an equal level as everything else in importance. God has more say-so, or we try to be obedient in that goal, but still He is right alongside everyone and everything else.
If everything that matters to us was lined up in front of us, let’s say standing along a line in a gymnasium where we sit on the bleachers, then Jesus is standing there, beside Him stands our family, our job and coworkers, beside them our friends, our church members, and let’s say, a mirror where we see ourself. So there are 50 people standing on a line in front of you, including yourself, and they all take turns with being the focus of your thoughts, emotions, reasonings, plans, and efforts. Jesus is just one in a crowd, though it may be what He tells you still has great importance and governs you in the time you spend focused, not on Him, but on everyone else.
In other words, even if all this time is spent with your focus on loving, still your neighbors and self have received equal place alongside Jesus in this lineup, that represents your time and focus. But the command to love God is separate and first and great, from the command to love your neighbor as yourself, which is the second commandment. So it seems that somehow God, Jesus, should not just be lined up alongside everyone else, who also take up time (even in love) in your thoughts, feelings, reasonings, plans, efforts. So how can the first and great commandment, that requires God to be foremost and first, be made separate again from the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself?
It seems perhaps one way to focus on God entirely, is to simply remove everyone else, or find a way to put them in the background, and leave Jesus alone standing in the foreground. An idea which reminds me of a somewhat semi-haunting scifi film from the 80s, called “The Quiet Earth”. In this movie a man wakes up to find himself alone in the world, now full of empty cities, where it seems everyone has vanished instantly all at one time. He spends many months, perhaps a year, in total solitude. Most of the movie is about how he occupies himself without having any other people to have any sort of relationship with. His activities include living the high life in the deserted homes of the rich and famous, fun with mannequins, drinking, travel, and much time spent looking for other people. He apparently hates being alone, and when he finally finds a couple other survivors, they seem to share the sentiment. As soon as they accept they aren’t out to kill each other, in one scene, without a word, they move into sharing a big group hug – a scene which touches intuitively on one of the deepest needs of the human heart, which is love.
The movie carries an atheistic perspective as God is not counted as present, and the idea of a man’s complete and total aloneness is what makes the movie so haunting, to think of never seeing or talking to another living person ever again, to never have anyone to love, or to love you.
But just as a thought experiment, what would it mean for you or I in the matter of our personal relationship with God, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, if we awoke one day to an empty planet, all other people gone, a quiet earth? Putting God back into this idea, if and as the Bible is true, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, is possible. And as for what it means by a personal relationship, what seems to be demonstrated in the Bible is a relationship of real interaction, not just talking to God, but God talking back, teaching, comforting, giving guidance, and giving all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, of love, joy, peace, and so on.
So as a Christian, let’s say everyone else did really disappear. Rather than ending up talking to mannequins, you could talk to Jesus – and unlike mannequins, He can talk back. Rather than a loveless existence devoid of company, there is Jesus Christ, whose spirit is inside of you, the spirit of a God who is Himself love, and loves you, whose spirit the Bible says will give comfort, and teach you. Jesus also said in His Holy Spirit He would not leave us as orphans, He would never leave us or forsake us, but would be with us always, a spirit by which we cry out like a child “Daddy!” to God our Father. So as a Christian, if you ever did wake up one day to a world where all other people have disappeared, you would in fact not be alone. You would instead be living in a world where there are two people present: you and Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit.
And if everyone else was gone… how much difference would it make in how much you focused on your relationship with God? Your relationships with everyone else would be gone, your spouse is gone, your kids are gone, the rest of your family is gone, your friends are gone, and all the people at church are gone, your boss and all your coworkers are gone, and all of those relationships no longer require anything from you, nor can you give or receive anything from them. On top of that, you no longer need to go to work, school, church, or have any other commitments: demands and distractions are no more. Suddenly all thoughts related to what anybody else thinks become irrelevant… as well as all plans you had about your future in relation to success, any organization of a group of people, or comparative self-appointments into some status quo, where you someday might fit in, or what you might someday have attained. You would be living in a world with few or no time constraints, only one other person who existed in the entire world, Jesus, and only one possible relationship you could have with anyone.
Barring anyone else to love, or to love you, if you wanted to have a loving relationship with anyone, you only could have one with God. If you were scared, God would be the only one there to calm you, if you were sad, God would be the only one there to comfort you, if you felt joy at the beauty of a sunrise, God would be the only one to share it with, if you wanted to show something neat you made to someone, God would be the only one who could say “that’s cool!”, if you wanted a hug or someone to hold you, God would be the only one there to do that either.
And here’s the thing: from what the Bible teaches, God CAN do those things, DOES do those things, and WANTS to have that sort of personal relationship of close tender love with each of us. The Bible says, Deu 4:29 “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” So if this seems lacking, it’s not that God isn’t there, or that He doesn’t want a close personal relationship: but He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. You have to find Him, want Him, which is a matter of seeking God with all your heart and soul. Back to the pie chart, if you and God were alone in the universe, how much of the time would your pie chart be at 100% focus on loving God and a relationship with Him?
Look at it another way… if you and Bob, whose a pretty nice guy, were the only 2 people left on the planet, how much time would you spend with a huge focus on your relationship with Bob, focus on giving or receiving love from Bob? I bet it would be a majority of the time. If you were the only 2 people on the planet, I would bet you would live near or with each other, do most things together, talk every day about just about anything… because you would be all you had to each other. Even if Bob spoke another language, I bet you would take the time to learn it, just to be able to relate to him. If you and Bob were the only 2 people on the planet, I do believe it is very likely you would quickly become fixated on Bob, even seem obsessed with Bob, what Bob thinks, how Bob is doing, where Bob is, and not wanting anything to happen so that you would lose Bob, because he would be all you had for a friend. Bob would tend to occupy all those spaces where every one and every thing else had been, and so Bob would tend to take up your thoughts, and emotions, your focus and reasonings, and plans, and efforts.
Now, what if you and Jesus Christ were the only 2 people left on the planet, how much time would you spend with a huge focus on your relationship with Jesus, focus on giving or receiving love from Jesus? I bet it would be the majority of the time. If you were the only 2 people on the planet, I would bet you would live near or with each other, do most things together, talk every day about just about anything… because you would be all you had to each other. And I bet you would take the time to learn how to speak His language, learn His style of communication with you, just to be able to relate to Him. If you and Jesus were the only 2 people on the planet, I do believe it is very likely you would quickly become fixated on Jesus, even seem obsessed with Jesus, what Jesus thinks, how Jesus is doing, where Jesus is, and not wanting anything to happen so that you would lose Jesus, because He would be all you had for a friend. Jesus would tend to occupy all those spaces where every one and every thing else had been, and so Jesus would tend to take up your thoughts, and emotions, your focus and reasonings, and plans, and efforts.
And that is what I think the first and great commandment is really pointing to: He is “God with us”. Jesus Christ is not meant to be just another person in the line-up. To fulfill the first and great commandment, God in Jesus Christ needs to be the only one on that line, in an otherwise empty gymnasium… on an otherwise empty planet. The love we are commanded to have for God can be described in modern parlance as nothing less than a full-blown all-consuming obsession, with all the abandon of the reality of aloneness, same as if you were living in a world of only two, you and Jesus Christ.
The second commandment does bring other people back into the gym, but they are all in the background, lined up on the other side of the gym – and they aren’t just those who you are close to and know, but that other line-up encompasses every single person on the planet, who all are your neighbors that you are to love as yourself, treat as you would like to be treated. It is God in Jesus Christ alone who is to be in the foreground, nearest to you, bigger in your sight, who is in the front and foreground of your line of sight, no matter who you are looking at behind Him.
The first commandment is God saying what He wants from each of us is reciprocity of the all-consuming love He has, and wants to show, for each of us (and has shown, as He has done nothing less already than to die to save us). And we can know that reciprocity is what is best for and happiest for each of us, as God’s commandments always are for our benefit. For each and every one of us, despite our numbers, we are not just numbers to God, but as God is infinite, and God is love, He has this sort of passionate love for each of us as individuals, and wants us to believe that, and to love Him in return, and for Him to have a close deep loving personal relationship with each of us – which is not diminished by the multitude we are, as He is infinite and is love, and actually can do this great feat of a real relationship, real-time, all the time, with each of us. He can personally relate to each of us closely, and deeply, and with real love and care and intimacy, and He wants to, and wants us to reciprocate.
He lets us choose to come to Him or not, to believe in Him or not, gives us the choice to choose Jesus Christ or not: but once we have made that choice as Christians, God’s first and great commandment is to love Him with everything we have got, all the time. The analogy of the gym and bleachers is just an analogy, to see everything else with Jesus overlaid in front of it. But what God actually has for us is far more personal. It is not even that Jesus is to sit on the bleachers with you, but rather, God has made it so His Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, can dwell inside each of us.
By learning to be in and walk by the Holy Spirit of Jesus, and to have the mind of Christ, we come into agreement with His will, and are changed to be like Jesus. We never become Jesus, but we grow and change to be in agreement with His thoughts, and His feelings, all the thoughts, intentions, feelings of His heart and soul, and to have our will and strength and efforts be in agreement with His – and His Spirit leads us into all this, producing His fruits. We become like Him, and in this, we are changed to see the world as He does, to do as He would do, and also, to love God like Jesus does.
Jesus is not meant to be like just another person in the line-up, nor the only one on a line in the foreground, as you look out at Him, separate. He is not even meant to just be beside you on the bleachers, looking out with you at others, beside you. What He really wants from you is to be “God with us”, to be “with” your born-again spirit, in His Spirit, inside you, His eyes and vision overlaying your own eyes, so you see things as He does. To feel as He feels, think as He thinks, will as He wills, and love as He loves. And we can know the way Jesus loves the Father is perfect, loving God with all His mind, heart, soul, and strength. And in this, as we learn to walk in His Holy Spirit, and become in agreement with Jesus, by becoming like Jesus, our love for God can be made to truly consume 100% of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, 100% of the time.