When Jesus quotes the law in Deuteronomy with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”, he begins with heart. There is no way to prove that the order suggests a priority, but it does raise the possibility. At any rate, in this discussion of holy fitness I choose to follow the order of scripture and begin with the heart.
It is an ancient tradition to think of things of the heart as having to do with emotions and relationship. Poetry, fiction and common parlance speak of the heart as the place of our emotions. While science may doubt the center of emotion in our heartbeat, the heart is the symbol we use to talk about our emotional life. When we think of loving anything, we think first of the heart, the traditional dwelling place of love.
The essential element of Love is relationship. To love God requires a relationship with God. Relationship with God connects us eventually with relationships with others, which is indeed the second part of Jesus’ summarized law, “…love your neighbor as yourself.” To practice emotional fitness requires positive relationships with others and with God. It is not possible to love God while not loving your neighbor. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20.
I recently saw a study looking at factors that cause long life. Some of the things you would expect are on the list: exercise, good diet, etc. The two strongest indicators speak to the power of relationships indicated in the above scriptures. The second strongest indicator of long life was close relationships. This refers to that small number of people that you can depend upon for support no matter what. This indicator may also tie into other statistics I have read that show a relationship between being married and long life. But close relationships can also mean friends or family that you know will have your back in all situations.
The strongest indicator raises the power of relationship building as even more important than relationship retention of a few close friends. The strongest indicator is called social integration.
The rather technical expression refers to how much you interact with people in all social situations. Social integration suggests that you share a smile and a kind word with someone serving you or stop to talk to someone you come upon in a park and other such informal meetings. Apparently, the strongest thing you can do for long life is to never shut people out of your interest and attention.
This last indicator supports that to love the Lord our God with all our heart and means to share ourselves with all God’s children. Some of the greatest evangelism opportunities occur when we continually increase our circle of friends. Active church people often limit their friendships to the people in their church and wonder why new people never come. When we constantly expand our friendship range, we meet new people with whom we can share our church life, we expand our understanding of the beautiful diversity of God’s people and we live longer. Thus, we enhance our fitness of spirit and body (our body and the church body).
Talk to God every day. Talk to new people every day. Enlarge your heart by including more people. Know God more!
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