God prefers loving actions that come deep within our hearts more than any religious ritual we might perform. He wants His will done by not just fulfilling the letter of the law, but the spirit of what is required – and what is required is love, a love for God with one’s entire being (Mark 12:28-34).
I love my three girls with all my heart. I think God made them all beautiful to compensate for all the ornery things they have done so that I wouldn’t go crazy. Once Sarah (the ringleader of the three hoodlums) was at the top of the stairs with two year old Mikaela in a laundry basket and pushed her down with Charissa at the bottom to catch her. I love my wife with all my heart. Yet, Mary always thought it would be a good idea to have an open door policy for the girls to come into our bed at night whenever they needed us. I’ve been puked on, peed on, kicked on and pushed out of bed; it’s like living with a bunch of drunks…. And that’s not to mention things like the hundred times I’ve been way-laid before going out of the house with “you’re not really going out in public looking like that are you!?”
I have dealt with it all because I love my kids. But larger than that, God has children all over this planet earth, and he loves them. To begin to love God with all our hearts is to begin to see what God’s heart is – a big expansive heart for people all around the world. God’s heart is close to the broken-hearted, near to those in need. His heart is a heart of compassion. God’s wrath is actually a response of his love to make things right in this fallen world. His heart yearns for his creatures to love Him. As early as the book of Genesis, just a few chapters in it says, The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6). So God sent a great flood and wiped out nearly all of humanity. It bothers God and He is not okay with the sinful and idolatrous hearts of people.
We cannot just have a Disney-style follow your heart. Trusting in our own hearts is a mistake, for they are, apart from God, desperately wicked. Jeremiah said: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:10). The heart is beyond repair and the only way to deal with it is to have a heart transplant. God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel and gave a promise: I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). A stony heart betrays not knowing God. A soft heart of compassion toward others reveals loving God.
Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God? God is concerned for suffering, injustice, and death. To love God with all our heart means that our hearts beat for the things that touch the heart of God. It means that God’s heart of compassion is the driving motivation of our lives. It means that we will love people. Hear what the Apostle of Love, John, said: We love because Christ first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:19-21). The reason sins of the tongue get listed alongside things like murder and adultery in the New Testament is that they are offenses to God’s heart.
God’s heart is with the children of this world. Every year 15 million children die of starvation. That’s more than 40,000 children a day. Today over 8,000 people will die from AIDS. The numbers are staggering not only of hunger but of war and disease not to mention other great problems of humanity including illiteracy and the sex slave trade. My goal is not to depress us. What I want us to see is a very small glimpse of what God sees every day. And, what is more, God knows each one of their names. When it comes to us, people need to move from being numbers to being names. God is not okay with all the brokenness on this earth and his heart breaks over the sin of the world that causes such evil to go on day after day. God wants His Church to champion causes that are close to His heart. If we love God He wants us to aim that love with all our hearts toward people who need the compassion of Christ.
Love is a deliberate decision to meet a need in another person. Churches must see the needs and not allow their hearts to shrink. Leonardo Da Vinci once observed that the average person “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, inhales without awareness of fragrance, and talks without thinking.” Sharing God’s heart for people is to have a heart of compassion that is aware of the great needs of the world and will do whatever it takes to be a part of meeting those needs. In so doing, the Church follows her Savior who so loved the world that he gave himself for it.