One of the legal experts came up and overheard the discussion. Realizing that Jesus had given a splendid answer, he put a question of his own.
“Which commandment,” he asked, “is the first one of all?”
“The first one,” Jesus replied, “is this: ‘Listen, Israel: the Lord your God , the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength.’
And this is the second one: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
What’s the point of it all?
I agree with the mystics that the point of it all is union with God.
“I and the Father are one,” Jesus said. And that is why He was able to do all He did. To say all He said. He was clear on this, on where it all came from. His father.
I believe the point of our entire lives is to become one with God through spiritual union. And the reason for even exploring spiritual practices of any kind is this.
To be united to God through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God’s story as handed to us in all of Scripture is God revealing Himself and reaching out to humans to be united in love with them.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus affirmed “commands” to love God and others? How do you command love? I mean, you can make a law that I must stand whenever the president enters the room or walks by, but you cannot force me to respect him or her in my heart. You can make laws not to murder, but you cannot demand that I have positive thoughts about others. Laws concern external actions. God is after much more.
I believe Jesus tells us that in order to fulfill this lofty command of love we must first fill ourselves with God who is love. As Augustine said, the Law of Christ gives what it commands. His command is actually an exhortation to transcend obligation and live on a higher plane, and this, through being united to God through Him so that it is even possible to live in this supernatural manner.
We reduce much of God and His desires for us to mere human striving and willpower. Though noble much of the time, I’m sure, it is futile. We try hard to love annoying people, or to overlook what we can’t stand in the name of piety. But YHWH transcends this, and desires the same transcendence for us–to bring us to the point where we actually see the beauty that is in the core, the soul, of every person, for they are all made in the image of God. With the new eyes of our rebirth we see people more accurately, for who they really are and who they were created to be. The annoyances and even evil actions are no longer the first thing we see. We now see first and foremost someone loved by God, made by God to love Him. We see or look for where God is already at work in their lives as He no doubt is and has been, wooing them to Himself since their birth, or perhaps even before.
And concerning our love for God, we tend to think we must conjure up feelings of affection for this unseen Spirit God which seems a formidable task to say the least.
And it is.
Before we encounter Him.
Before we are touched by God in actual experience. We love Him because He first loved us. Not because of anything we’ve done or proven to be worthy of. Just because we are. When you are touched by that, and believe it with your whole heart, you are changed. Our love for God must be a returning of love if it is to be authentic.
The only way we can fulfill these two commandments, on which everything else hangs, is to be filled with God.
That’s it. You can try hard all you want. You’re gonna get very, very tired.
And how do we fill ourselves with God? Ah, I’m so glad you asked that question. It brings us back to where we started today. We do our part by creating space in order for God to fill us, and this through foundational spiritual practices.
God does the heavy lifting, yet we must place ourselves in His path of grace. I love Tozer’s clever example of this. How does someone get a tan? Do you tan yourself, or does the sun tan you? The answer is of course that you tan yourself by exposing yourself to the sun. You have only to bring yourself into contact with the sun’s rays and the sun will take care of the rest.
Being filled with God gives us new life, sight, and consciousness that transcends human consciousness and abilities. Please, for the love of God, stop trying harder and simply be filled with the Holy Spirit.
So we create space for God’s Spirit to fill us up and live through us. If you are sick and want your favorite cup filled with healing tea, you must first empty it of the Mountain Dew with which it is already filled. There is no space in your cup for the tea to even enter. Yes, that Dew may taste good to you, but it ain’t doin’ a dang thing good for your body. And it’s taking up precious space that is meant for that tea!
Creating space for God to work in you does require effort on your part, but it is effort well spent because of its aim. It is smart effort, diligence. You will know God and yourself. And we need both to live whole lives.
This is why we talk about these practices, these “keystone habits.” Because of what they create space for, not what they do in and of themselves. The more meditation on Scripture and Jesus’ life I practice, the more at peace I am with God, myself, and others. The more unified with God I become. I do not do it to try to win the “Best Meditator in Indiana” trophy. Although now that I think about it, that would probably be a really cool trophy wouldn’t it? Or would it actually be plain and simple due to the nature of the contest?
Anyway, I look forward to exploring more of this tomorrow after having set this (hopefully clear) foundation of the “WHY” starting point.