Every day as I drive into my usual parking lot I pass a black behemoth of a vehicle. This “car” towers over my 6-foot, 230-pound frame as I walk by it. It shouts from the license plate “8APRIUS.” It’s an intimidating sight, no doubt, and I am very glad I don’t drive a Prius. This huge black beast prowls about on the narrow roads of our campus urging all on-comers to give way and consider his size when attempting to pass in the opposite direction. Sometimes I wonder how the driver can even keep it on the road due to its size, but yet somewhere in the back of mind I think how comforted he must feel knowing that come hell or high water, which we’ve got a lot of in New York right now, he’s got everything he needs to keep rolling down the road.
Discipleship is a response to a call. The call is from Christ to come and follow. Bonhoeffer, in his beautiful work The Cost of Discipleship, describes discipleship as something that must be rooted in belief, and from that belief flows obedience. What a beautiful picture he paints. He further articulates that obedience to the call of Christ cannot exist without first believing. This paradoxical circular argument is an oddity that all those who call themselves disciples of Christ must hold in tension. The road is paved with the silent, yet ever solid, mixture of obedience and belief. This road is certainly long, straight, and narrow. Daily, as disciples of Christ, we are called to repent and follow, believe and be saved.
And an expert in Mosaic Law stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall 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.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” ~ Luke 10:25-28
Discipleship is a straight and narrow road and in order to stay on that road and reach its destination, this account in Luke shows us that we are to love your God will all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and then love your neighbor as yourself.
Love God with all your heart – as Christians, we’re good at addressing this. We continually talk about guarding our hearts, praying and petitioning God to purify our hearts. We partake in actions that help to soften our hearts toward the poor, lonely, and orphaned. We spend time, money, and energy showing our compassion to those in need. All of these things are good. These actions, the giving of our resources and the submission to areas of discomfort, soften our hearts. We learn to love God with our heart by loving the things that He loves, thereby following closer as He leads.
Love God with all your soul. How does one exactly go about developing love for God with his soul? Daily repentance, prayer, and meditation are all good starts. “The discipline of prayer brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 33).” Prayer is a transformative event whereby we commune with the Father. This holy communion of our soul with the Spirit of God is mystical in nature, yet holds the key to unlocking the power of full and contrite obedience to the call of Christ on our lives. Without this daily communion, where could we ever find the renewal of our belief and the ability to obey?
Love God with all your mind. Clearly, studying Scripture, examining books, and considering other viewpoints will direct our minds to a well-rounded, fuller knowledge of the biblical text and theology. We should be thankful for the ability to develop the mind. Reading and writing has sustained human ideas for centuries; it is what has sustained Scripture for centuries and we should not balk at the opportunity to tap scholarly works in order to have a well thought out and articulate view of Christ’s work in this world. But this idea does not come without a word of caution; diligence and discretion are necessary as we comb through the thoughts and ideas that are projected at us on a daily basis. As with the heart, we must guard our minds as we continue to seek purity and understanding.
Love God with all your strength… Even now as I scrape the further reaches of my memory I cannot ascertain a single memory of a sermon, seminar, class, or lecture that addresses this. While volumes of work have addressed the development of the heart, soul, and mind (which seem to be almost assumed as essentials in the disciple’s journey), where is the message, “Love God with all your strength”? It is found in the Deuteronomy text and quoted in the Gospels nearly word for word. Are we to assume that to love God with all your strength is a concept simply included with the other three areas that are mentioned? Is there a place for strength on the road that has been defined as straight and narrow? We think there is a place, and that place has been neglected.
The challenge is not to overemphasize any of our being at the expense of another, but that is what we have done for too long. The challenge is to be balanced. We would wish to encourage everyone to love God with one’s whole being, not neglecting to give God all the glory He deserves. It is time we all thought a little about loving God with more than just our hearts and our souls and our minds and begin loving God with our all.
What does this mean? How does this look, and how is it expected of us? Join us on Monday for part 2 of this blog.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959.
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.