In Luke 10:27, Jesus explains the greatest commandment in two parts:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Reflecting on Sunday’s discussions about worship and discipleship here at Bayshore, I felt drawn to this verse today, especially the first of the two commands. Referencing Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus instructs his listeners to love God with every fiber of their being: heart, soul, strength, and mind. What is it about these four, and why would Jesus select them?
The heart is the center of affections and purpose, the source of will and character, and the location of passion and emotion. Though it’s often thought of as fickle, the heart controls many of our strongest drives and desires, and it’s the part of us most associated with love. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that we are nothing without love, and therefore, we are nothing if we let this organ sit idle.
Possibly the toughest of the four to explain, the soul is the breath of life and the force that animates us. Contrasting the physical world, the soul is something immaterial, and it appears often in discussions of eternal life and the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 6 says that the Christian soul has hope as its anchor, and 1 Peter 2 says that Christ is the shepherd and overseer of our souls.
When Jesus talks about strength, he is speaking not just about raw power and might, but about ability and aptitude and determination. This is both brute force and artistic skill. I’m reminded of a favorite verse of our students, Philippians 4:13: “I can do ALL things through Him who gives me strength.”
Probably the easiest to explain, the mind is the center of understanding, thinking, and feeling. This is intellect, perception, knowledge, wisdom, and everything else you’d usually associate with your brain.
Jesus identifies heart, soul, strength, and mind as the key components of every person. These four figure into every thought and action, and Jesus tells us to love God with all of them, but what should that four-part love look like? Lately, I’ve found the metaphor of a workout helpful:
Think of heart, soul, strength, and mind as four muscles that need to be exercised on a regular basis. Sure, it’s okay if one or two muscles get a little extra attention in your workout (e.g. “Today, I’m going to devote more time to my heart.”), but you don’t want to let any one muscle go totally unaddressed. Ignoring one muscle for too long will cause it to atrophy, and that’s going to affect your overall athletic performance (not to mention your health). The goal of a good workout is balance: making sure that attention is paid to the full body in order to ensure maximum fitness, and the same is true for your spiritual life. Heart, soul, strength, and mind all need to be exercised regularly in your walk with Christ so that you can use them all to love God as Jesus commands.
I guess you’re wondering what any of this has to do with worship style. Well, I’ve found that different worship styles can exercise different muscle groups. I know this won’t be true for everyone, but I looked at my own worship practices as a test case:
I participate in both worship services at Bayshore, and both are crucial to my spiritual exercise. With the nostalgia it invokes, traditional worship helps me to love God with my whole heart, while the more ethereal and meditative contemporary music helps me love Him with my whole soul. Certain hymns contain in-depth explanations of our beliefs that encourage me to love God with my whole mind, while many contemporary songs contain empowering lyrics that remind me that God is the source of my whole strength.
Far beyond being a simple matter of preference, these styles of worship are exercising different parts of your spiritual life and encouraging you to love God in subtly different ways. Everyone’s spiritual workout looks a little different, but if you’re anything like me, you need a variety of worship styles. Also, if you’re reading this and feel like any of your muscles might need a little extra exercise, I’d encourage you to check out both of our worship services and see if that helps. As Pastor Chris mentioned this past Sunday, Bayshore is one of the few churches out there that does both contemporary and traditional worship very well. We’ve got a world class spiritual gym set up here, but it’s each Christian’s responsibility to make sure that our personal workouts are balanced. We need to make sure that we’re using our resources here to love God in the fullest ways we possibly can.
It’s something only you can really know: Are you loving God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind? If not, what areas could use a little exercise?
Grace and Peace,