I’m doing some reading and writing on love and have been reflecting on the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
I don’t know about you, but pretty well no-one that I know or have talked to is against the idea of love. I mean who wants to be seen as a cynical old curmudgeon or a psycho like Billy Bob Thornton’s violent predator Lorne Malvo in the series Fargo?
But push a wee bit further and questions start to emerge:
What is love?
Who or what is it that we are loving? (love always has a focus, we have to love something)
What is the outcome or consequences of our love? How is love made visible in practice?
How have ideas of love developed and changed in history?
What are the dominant popular notions of love in our contemporary western culture?
Are all religions essentially about love? Are they simply different expressions of a universal human impulse to love?
This post isn’t going to answer any of those questions! It is going to link to that last one though.
Here’s a fact about love in the Old Testament – and the Bible in general.
If love always has to have a focus, in the Shema, Israel’s love is directed at a very particular person – YHWH – not an ill defined divine reality or some sort of faceless god.
A religious pluralism that suggests that an abstract form of love lies at the core of all (or most) religions, reduces love to a de-personalised philosophical idea.
This is very far cry from the Shema. Love for God in the Bible is love for a very specific Lord who has revealed himself in history, has chosen Israel as his people, given them the Law and the Land, and is redeeming the world through the continuing story of that nation and its Messiah.
I came across this quote by Chris Wright
.. the sharp precision of the Shema cannot be evaporated into a philosophical abstraction or relegated to a penultimate level of truth. Its majestic declaration of a monotheism defined by the history-laden, character-rich, covenant-related, dynamic personhood of “Yahweh our God”, shows that the abstract and definitionally undefinable “being” of religious pluralism is really a monism without meaning or message.
 Chris Wright, Deuteronomy, New International Biblical Commentary. p.98