Summary: What does it mean to love God with "all your heart"?
I’m sure you’ve all heard the old story about the enthusiastic man who walked into a dignified worship service and sat down in a pew. The minister had just started his sermon when the visitor said fervently, “Amen!” A moment later the fellow said, “Praise the Lord!” The usher walked down the aisle and whispered to him, “You need to be quiet! We don’t do that here.” The visitor said, “But I’ve got religion!” The usher said, “Well, you didn’t get it here.”
I think we can relate to that situation because we tend to be a group of people who are more comfortable with the intellectual aspects of religion than we are the emotional aspects. And I include myself in that number. I’m much more comfortable discussing the truthfulness of the doctrine of premillennialism than I am letting tears flow down my cheeks in the middle of a worship service.
I want to be careful not to be misunderstood this morning, so I’m going to be making a lot of clarifications, and I want to make one at this point. I’m not saying that anyone who doesn’t get visibly excited or has tears flowing down their cheeks isn’t worshiping God with their deepest emotions. I wouldn’t dare say that, I don’t believe it.
What I am saying is that I think we have a tendency to want to shut our emotions down or at the very least suppress them, especially when during worship because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t. We’re embarrassed to be seen with tears running down our cheeks. We’re embarrassed to be seen as a little bit too enthusiastic or excited about what God has done for us. We don’t want to be perceived as someone who gets a little too “carried away” with religion.
But Jesus said, in giving the greatest commandment, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). Quite frankly, we’ve done a good job in the church of loving God with all our mind, but I think we’ve been a bit hesitant at times to love him with all our heart.
When I talk with couples who are about to get married, I always talk with them about what love means. And one of the questions I raise is this: “Is love something you feel, or is it something you do?” And ultimately agape love is something you do; it’s a commitment that will hang in there regardless of what happens. Agape love will lead you to get up in the middle of the night and take care of a sick family member even when you don’t feel like it. Agape love will lead you to make sacrifices for the benefit of others even when you have trouble feeling excited about doing it. Agape love is the foundational love in our marriage relationship. It’s also the foundational love in our relationship with God. There are times that our love will express itself to God even when we just don’t have the feeling.
But does that mean that love has no feeling? Imagine a husband who has an agape love for his wife. He will do anything he can for her. He will make any sacrifice necessary. But he doesn’t have any feelings for her. He doesn’t get excited when she walks into the room. He doesn’t laugh with her and he doesn’t cry with her. There’s no feeling, no emotion -- just a commitment. I think all of us would agree that there’s something missing in that love, something sadly missing.
And yet, many times, that describes our relationship with God. We have an agape love. We are firmly committed to serving God. We’ll do anything for him that he wants us to do, but there’s not much feeling, not much emotion. We don’t dare get too excited in our praise, we don’t dare allow ourselves to get too sad at the thought of the cross. We have love, but I think there’s something missing in that love, something sadly missing.
Again, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. We need to think reasonably and rationally about what God has done for us and about what God wants us to do for him. But there’s got to be more to our relationship with God than that. We are more than just our minds. There is more to being loved by the Creator of the universe than simply reading about it in the pages of the Bible. Love that isn’t felt may certainly be real, but it is just as certainly incomplete.
There is a dimension to being loved by God that goes beyond apprehending it intellectually. It is more than an objective fact, more than something “out there” to admire and observe. It’s also a subjective experience, something “in here" to feel and enjoy.