Mark 12: 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
I love sports. As I began to write this blog I wrestled a bit, feeling somewhat guilty about penning that statement. Is that too strong a word for how I feel about sports? No, I’d have to say it is an accurate word. For as long as I can remember I have been kicking or hitting balls, I have been running, biking, and also watching sports. I grew up with a high school behind my house so my backyard consisted of a baseball diamond, two soccer fields, a long jump pit, tennis courts and plenty of paved driveway for street hockey. I must have spent a thousand hours playing sports in my massive backyard as I grew up. And that love of sports has never ended. Fortunately I have a wife who has a similar passion so our family vacations weren’t spent tanning on a beach, they were spent playing beach volleyball, soccer, or playing weird sports we invented. I, and we, love sports, because that is just how God made us.
I have a special appreciation for elite or professional athletes who love the sport they play. You watch them and are convinced that if you didn’t pay them a dime, they would still play. Michael Jordan dominated the sport of basketball when he played, and while I’m sure he appreciated the millions he made, he said that “even when I am old and grey, I will not be able to play it, but I will still love the game.” You could see that for Jordan, basketball wasn’t just showing up to the court, carrying out the plays that the coach dreamed up, and then going home. Jordan was passionate about the game.
This love of sports reminded me of the difference between living a Christian life and loving Christ. We can follow the commandments, follow the excellent principles of the Bible, imitate the actions of many holy men and women of the Bible who walked ahead of us, but if we do not love the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our Christian walk is a sad one. Following good Biblical principles will likely give us a successful life, but it robs us of the fullness of what God intends for us.
Today’s passage from Mark 12 is an interesting one. A teacher of the law came and tested Jesus and asked him, “of all the commandments, which is the most important” (vs 28b). His answer was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. (vs 30). My first reaction as I contemplated Jesus’ response was: how can you command someone to love you? I can’t command my wife or my children to love me. It would do the exact opposite. But I quickly realized that Jesus was really saying: don’t bother with the rest of the commandments unless you first love God, because otherwise it will just be legalistic religion. Being a Christian is all about being in a love relationship. It began with Him loving us, and needs to include us loving him. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a) How is your love relationship with God? Stop striving; spend time developing your relationship with the one who loves you more deeply than you will ever be loved by a human being.