While attending a worship service at one of our favorite Lowcountry churches, my wife and I noticed an adolescent boy sitting by himself in front of us. During the sermon we saw that he was holding a Bible. What caught our attention about the boy was the way in which he fervently worshipped God.
After the service we realized that he had come to church by himself and that he was waiting for a ride back home. The boy is 12 years old.
While watching the boy worship, I was reminded of my childhood years and my own fervent devotion to God at that age. While other boys dreamed about baseball and soccer, I dreamt about becoming a “man of God” like Moses, King David, Daniel and Jesus. Although my mom’s broom never became a serpent, I kept casting it to the floor in the hopes that one day it would.
What motivated me to such dreams were not fantasies of grandeur and yearning for praise or respect, but a simple, fervent love for God that desired to express itself through extraordinary service.
I remember the time when Rabbi Grossman recited the Jewish profession of faith for me. I can still hear him chanting the second part: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
My rabbi friend then explained that loving God the biblical way means to intentionally and resolutely become totally absorbed in a lifestyle that seeks to please him in every conceivable and possible way. He then explained that the Talmud (a collection of rabbinic writings) is like a compilation of battle-ready plans that interpret the will of God expressed in the Bible under every imaginable situation at the time of its compilation.
To love God with all your heart means that he is the foundation, center and goal of all our passions. To love God with all your soul means to submit every aspect of your life to his will. To love God with all your strength means to do everything humanly possible to remain devoted to pleasing him.
Some of the greatest people at the turn of human history have been “God-lovers.” My Hare Krishna friend used to refer to Hindu saints as “madmen of God.”
My friend Kartikeya once shared the story of the founder of his sect, Lord Caitanya. His ecstatic worshipping of the god Krishna with song and dance had a profound effect on Vaishnavism. Centuries before Mahatma Gandhi, Lord Caitanya preached against the corruption of the priesthood and called for the end of the Indian caste system.
Many would agree that true God-lovers have the power to transform the worst of situations around them into microcosms of heaven. God-lovers see life where there is death. They see hope where there is despair. They know peace even in the midst of war.
God-lovers see a way when every door is closed. True God-lovers see the face of God in every person, including their enemies.
Shouldn’t we be encouraging more people into becoming God lovers? Shouldn’t we become God-lovers ourselves?
If you want to serve our community in a meaningful way, just love God – and everything will fall into place. Shalom!
Rev. Juan C. Rivera of Bluffton is a Latino missions consultant and counseling therapist for Jamison Consultants.