Throughout the history of Europe and then brought over to America, God had his place and it was inconceivable to think otherwise.
Before we think, “Ahhh, the good old days”, those people had their problems and issues with theology.
But the notion that everyone believes in God cannot be assumed in our culture anymore.
It seems that when this kind of change occurs, in this case change to a people’s perception of God’s character and God’s influence upon the world, there can be a tendency to tighten up our defenses and fallback on what it is that we have “always been told” rather than look anew at our own beliefs.
Deuteronomy 6 tells us that the YHWH is our God and that YHWH is one.
This God is God and the only God to boot.
So I think that begs the question, “Who is God to you?”
If this is going to be the foundational statement of who God is, then we should really have an understanding of who this God is to us.
What does this God you love look like?
What does he sound like?
What are that God’s qualities?
What are that God’s characteristics?
We can say God is loving and just but without looking at those deeper even they cannot mean much.
Do we have a God who loves everything? A God who is so loving and gracious that nothing we do really matters so go ahead and live any way you want. After all, it’ll all be forgiven and “once saved, always saved” no matter what, right?
Do we have a God that is so just that we should probably live in constant terror of him lest we stick one toe over the sin line leading to God raining fiery retribution on us?
What about those people around you? Those you come into contact with each day? Do they even believe in God and if so, what God? Have they been told all their lives that God is a sweet old man with a long white beard who just can’t wait to get them to heaven so that they can sit next to him playing a harp for a billion years?
Have they been told all their lives that God is actually a big bully who hates them because they can’t do everything perfectly and couldn’t be more disappointed in how they turned out?
Are we talking about a God who can be trusted?
Are we talking about a God that we need to be afraid of?
Is it a God that Jesus had to save us from?
Is it a mockable God?
A weak God?
A genie to grant wishes?
An immovable God?
We may say the word God to ourselves and especially to others but we need to know what they believe about God in order to have an actual conversation with them.
You may hear people say, “Well, we can’t know all that about God so you just need to take a leap of faith.”
I have found that whenever someone said that to me, they absolutely meant that I needed to leap towards their view.
I can have an hour long conversation with a Mormon about God and Jesus and we can leave believing that we think the exact same way about the matter. And it’s because we are using the same words but it’s very possible that those words have very different meanings to each of us.
If we just haphazardly throw out a “God will take care of you” to someone and leave it at that… what if that person has been taught their whole life that God “takes care” of people by punishing them for their mistakes?
So it seems like this verse, to me, is God calling us to have a deeper understanding of who we believe God to be and since he is “One”, he is the only God, we should really get to know what others are talking about when they talk about God.
The verse also mentions something familiar. The word “all”.
Loving God with our all.
What does that look like for you?
Does that mean for you that you need to be loud…
Or does it mean loving God with the whole of who you are?
Heart, soul, and mind
Again we see the Jesus Life leading to the Jesus Way and Jesus Truth. Our actions and beliefs should be given to God in totality.
Does this mean that we can even come to God with less than 100% of ourselves?
In Matthew 6, Christ talks about trying to serve two masters and how if we do, we will hate one and love the other. This is a warning, a signpost showing what will happen if not 100%. It’s just how our nature works. It’s what’s going to happen.
If we hold back parts of ourselves from God, if we try to be the master of pieces of ourselves, then have we been faithful to this verse?
And what does that tell us about whom we believe God to be? A God we can’t trust to handle all of our stuff? All the bits of us?
I think it’s interesting that the Shema starts with “Hear, O Israel”. A command to the people of Israel, to the people of God. Not Hear, O Egypt or Hear, O Babylon.
I wonder how often we hold others to the standard that God has set for his people. I wonder how often we judge those who don’t know God by the same measure we are to measure ourselves.
But they still need to know God and how will they know… How will they come to understand what God is like… His Church.
But here’s the rub… they will know God by both the good and bad actions and beliefs of his Church.
And so we come back to knowing who God is and what it means to love him with all of ourselves.