In this part of the country, there's a real popular saying made infamous by one of our local university coaches. He wants his team and the team's fans to be 'ALL IN.' The implication here is that there is a level of intentional commitment present at ALL times. What does this look like? For the coach, team supporters who follow this 'ALL IN' mantra will be faithful in wearing orange, no other color will suffice. Team supporters will also be very familiar with Howard and his special 'rock' which represents both death (as in the "Valley") and life (as in vigor for the game). Team supporters also will be loud and proud, no matter the final score of any competition.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment of all? In other words, what is the most important thing to pursue in life? Jesus's response seems obvious, but it is the INTENSITY required of the action, which demands a closer evaluation. First, Jesus's directive is to LOVE, seems easy enough, right? But WHO are we supposed to love, and HOW are we supposed to love? Jesus clearly states that nothing is more important than LOVE-most specifically, loving God first, and then loving others. This directive is intended as an all-out intentional passion and full-fledge effort. There are no parenthetical clauses or exceptions.
Jesus's response to the inquiry posed in Matthew 22 is similar to our local coach's mantra to be 'ALL IN.' It's easy to SAY that we love something; I love avocados...I love hummingbirds...I love music...And yet, do I LOVE God with an equivalent sense as these other things? Absolutely not! Personal relationships are so much deeper and demand a unique investment of time and energy if they are to grow and reciprocate. Jesus's response in the passage is this, "You shall love the Lord your God will ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, and with ALL your mind" (Matthew 22:37, emphasis is mine). That pretty much covers every aspect of the human design and existence, which also sets us apart from all other creation. The 'heart' is a reference to passion (or strong emotions) and with what or with whom we spend our time and resources. The 'soul' is a reference to our spiritual nature, after all, we are made in God's image and are spiritual beings (see Genesis 1:27). The 'mind' is a reference to our intellect and our ability to reason. What about that little word 'ALL,' though? It definitely leaves no room for interpretation. It is what it is. It is not a 'part' or a 'portion' and it is not dependent upon personal circumstances or preferences. The term 'ALL' means to be fully engaged in both effort and energy. Jesus intentionally uses the term 'ALL' not to create a daunting or impossible task, but to emphasize the value of the pursuit.
So, the next time you consider what the most important thing in life is, consider this phrase 'ALL IN.' It is a reminder of how life should be lived and WHOM our focus needs to be upon. We have been created BY God and FOR God, so loving Him first must be a priority and it requires an intentional effort incorporating ALL aspects of our humanity. There are a lot of things in which we can invest our time and energy, but NOTHING is going to bring the sense of purpose and satisfaction that a fully invested relationship with God does. After all, God's way is always the best way, and it really does pay to be 'ALL IN!'