“With all your soul”

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, HCSB)

with all my heart.  Everything I feel, every affection I have, everything I bond to, everything I love.

with all my mind.  Everything I think, every memory I look back upon, every plan I want to make, every moment as I process it.

with all your strength.  Everything I give my energy to, everything I act upon, everything I give my time to.

But . .

What does it mean to love God with all your soul?

I find this exquisitely curious.  I cannot think of anything I have left out of my life here on earth.  I have already thought of the commitment with my emotions, my imagination and thoughts, and my decisions.  So what is loving God with all my soul?

So far as I can fathom, it must be the eternal commitment of this love.  It is not just that I love Him with the heart that will stop beating, the mind that will stop thinking, the strength that will stop acting.  But I love Him eternally, this infinite bond that ties me to Him forever.

In the Bible, and in many cases in our times, husbands and wives seek to be buried next to each other.  But why?  It cannot really be because they think they will be “conscious” of whether or not they are next to someone they love.  Very literally, one corpse in a wooden box even only two feet away from another corpse in a wooden box share no conversation.  So why would a man and woman choose to be buried next to one another?

I think it is an expression of something our mind cannot explain . . our heart cannot hold . . even our strength gives out on us on.  It is a desire to be with someone regardless of whether you even have a mind to think it, or a heart to wish for it, or the strength to carry it out.  It is to love with the eternal essence of who we are, or we try to give this, anyway.  The problem is, as none of us own our own souls, and none of us give them life or have any power over them, we cannot choose to do anything with the eternal soul unless we presuppose that Someone will give us permission to do so.

I can take my own life, if I wish.  I can ruin my mind with drugs, wicked fantasies, plots, and I can even stop my mind from ever thinking again.  I can ruin my heart with affection for all the wrong things, and I can even force my heart to stop beating.  I can devote all my strength to the wrong causes and, I can even stop any further use of my strength.

But what I cannot do, what I have no ability to do, is to kill my soul.  I cannot see or feel my soul.  I have no realm of authority over my soul.  I cannot give my soul to someone who has no authority over it.  For example, I cannot give my soul in marriage to someone.  The soul doesn’t belong to me in the first place to give it away.  That would be something like saying I can give the moon away if I wish.

Jesus warned,

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28, NIV)

Let the severity of this warning not escape us.  If I should do whatever I please with my heart, mind, and strength, what I must recognize is that when I die, and these things fail me, I am not “over”.  What is over is the time I had to do things with my heart, mind and strength.  What is not over is the existence of my soul.

I used to (used to until today) think of the mind and soul as the same thing, a word used interchangeably, but now that I carefully look at this passage, I see my thinking must be changed.

My love is really relegated to my heart.  When I die, the love I have for everyone on earth will be over.  I can’t keep loving anyone or anything.  I can hope others remembered that I loved them (and that they do not remember the ugly emotions that came out of my heart during my life), but I can no longer love.

My thoughts are really relegated to my mind.  When I die, I cannot keep thinking.  I can hope to share my thoughts with others posthumously for them to think about, but I can no longer think.

And my strength is gone, too.  I can’t do anything, for good or for bad, when my body dies.  My body is controlled by my mind and heart, and of course it will not act without the other two.

I can, at best, say, I can love and think whatever I want and act however I want for such-in-so years.  Let’s be generous and say I live to be 116.  Well, fine, for 116 years, I’ve loved and thought and acted.

But then the great dread!  Not of nonexistence, but of existence without love or thought or strength.
What will remain?  My soul will remain.  Stripped of everything I once cherished, I will have left the reality of eternity without the sweetness of heart, mind, or strength.

C.S. Lewis says, “You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.”

The soul is not a possession of mine.  It is my identity, the thumbprint of who I am, before the God who made me, the God I must someday face with a resurrected–but not glorified–body.  At that point, when I stand before His throne, He can throw not only my body (with my heart, mind, and strength) in Hell, but He can throw also my soul there.

I cannot truly understand what that means, nor do I want to try to.  I do not want to know what is like to be raised from the dead with the same body I already had, only deteriorated and run-down far worse by my sin than it ever was in my life.  I do not want to face God and account for every violation of my mind, heart, and strength that I have ever committed.

But that does not make me an atheist!  That makes me repentant!

So far, the idea of the soul has been a nightmare, and I can see why anyone would want to pretend it doesn’t exist.  None of us has served God with our heart, mind, and strength.  We have all broken our alliance with Him and we must all come to Him as a soul and account for what we have done.

Let’s look again at what Jesus said.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, HCSB)

The soul can love.

Just as the heart, mind, and strength can love, so can the soul.

This doesn’t help us with the nightmare we are in, but instead adds to the nightmare.  Not only will we be held accountable for our heart, mind, and strength, but we will also be held accountable for not loving God with our immortal soul.

IF THIS WAS WHERE OUR FATE HAS TO END, it would be understandable to want to pretend it isn’t true.  It would be understandable to want to be an atheist.  But because it is NOT WHERE OUR FATE HAS TO END, we need to face the reality of the nightmare we are in.

Because from there, we can see how much God’s dream for our lives really matters.

He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)

We do not own our soul and cannot change its fate, and that’s the nightmare part.  The dream part is, God can.  God–and only God–can forgive us of the sin of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He can eternally forgive the sins of our heart, mind, and strength by redeeming our souls.  His dream is to pay for our sin.  He gave Himself to us in human form in Jesus Christ.  Jesus had ability to die because He is man, and the ability to redeem (buy back) our soul from damnation because He is God.

Our calling is to receive from Him this gift.  As we do so, He will begin to grow within us holiness: the ability to really love, to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.  We will never be perfectly there in this life; that perfection awaits the time of the soul.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, HCSB)

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