A Red Pencil Trail

red-pencil-edited

My arsenal was my Bible and a red pencil.

I didn’t think about how long it would take or the rationality of my approach. I wanted to know: what does it mean to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

If this is the greatest commandment, which it is clearly stated to be, then I was determined to uncover the answer. My method was to underline in my Bible every occurrence of the word love.

This approach is not speedy, but it uncovers some fascinating Bible trivia.

Like, do you know the first occurrence of the word love in both the Old and New Testament?

I’ll give you a shortcut, because you have to read 22 chapters to get to the first one. It’s that infamous passage where God tells Abraham to “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there.”

This is the first occurrence of love in the entire Bible, and that is the scene.

Yeah, it gave me pause too.

But it doesn’t stop there. Skip ahead several hundred pages and nearly 2000 years to the start of the New Testament. You don’t have to read far, but if you’re paying attention, the words in Matthew 3 will be eerily familiar:

And a voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased.”

Big Horn Sheep Mom & Baby

It is the start of Jesus’ ministry and the path that ultimately leads to his sacrifice on Calgary. This time there will not be a ram caught by his horns in a thicket; Jesus is the lamb.

That, when you come right down to it, is how God loves us. But it still left unanswered my initial question of how we love God.

I sharpened my red pencil again.

There are hundreds of verses on love in the Bible, but my main take away from my two-year rabbit trail through the Bible reached its zenith when I read 1 John 5:3. “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

There it was.

I set my Bible on my lap with a satisfied sigh. Finally, the definition I was looking for! Right here is how you love God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You love God by obeying his commands. And his command is to…

I paused, and my sigh was not so satisfied. My rabbit trail had suddenly become cyclical.

Red heart.

I should have seen this from the start. After all, I ended right where I began. To love God is to obey his command, and to obey his command is to love God. It was a long trip for a circular answer, but I’ve come to see that the journey was part of the lesson. You see, we can follow any rabbit trail we want, but we can never travel too far for God’s love to reach us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. That’s in the Bible too.

Maybe I haven’t plumbed the depths yet of what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But the more I study what it means to love God, the more I see what it means for God to love us – for God to love me. And that, my friends, is the first step.

You don’t need a red pencil in your hand to see it, but it’s not a bad path to try if you aren’t sure where to start. Love created the world, love sacrificed for the world, and love continues to change the world. Every day.

This post was first written for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed.

2 Comments

  1. schantzgalleries on February 8, 2022 at 7:58 am

    Such a deep commitment to finding your truth and inspiration. Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts and discoveries.
    ❤️

  2. mustardpatch on February 15, 2022 at 8:57 am

    You never know what rabbit trail a question like “what does this mean?” will lead you!

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Meet Janet!

Janet Beagle, PhD is the founder of The Mustard Patch. She divides her time between the Midwest and New England, and if she’s not writing, she’s probably out hiking with her 2-and 4-footed friends.