Critique My 6th Deuteronomy Sermon: One

Dt6.4-5Thanks so much Joe, Brian, Sharon, David, Chris, others for your liminal inducing comments on my sermons on Deuteronomy: Sin (chap. 1), Leadership (Dt 1:9-18), Faith (chap. 2-3), Obedience (chap. 4) and Law (chap. 5). This sixth sermon is on the Shema (meaning “Hear”). It is from the most famous chap. in Deuteronomy since Jesus chose the great command from Dt 6:5. My theme and thesis is that true spirituality is loving God, which arises from the heart and extends to all of life. I will likely begin my sermon as follows:

A shocking confession. After 32 years of marriage, I have never told my dear wife, “I love you.” I strongly do not recommend this to any husband!! I never said those three words to her, partly because I am a shy introverted person from the east who has great difficulty articulating emotions of love to others. (Unfortunately, I have no problem articulating anger!) Also, a sad story of humanity is that countless millions of people throughout the world have said, “I love you,” yet behaved in ways where the loved one felt anything but love. Mainly, I thought that my love for my wife should be expressed in ways far beyond uttering three little words. I did not realize this but I might have backing from Deuteronomy chap. 6 about loving God! God does not want his people to love him by just saying “I love you” (cf. Isa 29:13; Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6).

You can read the rest of my sermon write-up and outline here.


  1. Again I point to Danaher to make my opening point, which merely expands on one of your sermon points Ben, “True love for God is rooted in the heart, but it is demonstrated in life, specifically in the context of the family…”

    If our love for God is focused on some unseen concept, I believe we have failed to see the point of what Jesus tried to show and teach us. God is to be found in people we encounter (Matthew 25:37-40).

    “With respect to God, we will always be the beloved, having a human love that desires to acquire rather than to impart and create. Thus, if we are to be like him, and have his kind of love, it must be toward other human beings and not toward God. Although we cannot be God’s lover, we can be the lovers of other human beings and have the same love for them that God has for us. We are the body of Christ, and God uses us to pass on his seed and thus impregnate others with the same words of life with which we have been impregnated.”
    Eyes That See, Ears That Hear: Perceiving Jesus in a Postmodern Context (James P Danaher)
    – Highlight Loc. 934-36

  2. Joe Schafer

    Ben, your last statement is true. God does not want his people to love him by just saying “I love you.”

    But that little word “just” already assumes that the words are there. It is not a contrast of words versus deeds. It is a contrast of words versus words plus deeds. God confesses his love for us in both words and deeds. You are not off the hook.

    Happy Valentines Day.

  3. Joe Schafer

    Ben, your sermon is packed with information about the Shema. That verse played a key role in Jewish spirituality. They recited it numerous times each day. They tied it to their foreheads, put it in the doorframes of their houses, and so on.

    What is truly surprising is how Jesus handled it.

    Yes, Jesus upheld it as the most important commandment. That was not surprising in the least. Jesus was, after all, a Jew.

    The surprising thing was that Jesus took another very obscure verse from Leviticus 19 and elevated it, placing it on essentially equal footing alongside the Shema, as if to say, “Unless you are doing this also, you are not doing that.”

    The verse, of course, is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That appears in Lev 19:18 in regard to those within your own tribe and religion, and then reappears in Lev 19:34 in regard to foreigners and nonbelievers.

    It seems to me that Jesus applied the Shema in a very subversive way. He used it to indict those who appear to be devoted to God, but whose relationships with other human beings — not just their enemies, but even their own brothers and sisters — leave much to be desired. In fact, I think Jesus upholds love for other human beings as the primary test of whether one really loves Yahweh.

    Jesus’ application of Shema is no less subversive today.

    If we are not displaying love for our fellow human beings in ways that are visible and palpably felt, I think it would be best for us to keep our mouths shut about our faith and how much we love the Lord, taking his name off of our foreheads and doorposts, so that his holy name will not be dishonored.

  4. Brian, Joe, I fully concur that love for God MUST primarily be expressed as love for our fellow human beings, no matter how annoying, stubborn, blind, rigid, inflexible, unchanging, arrogant, condescending, recalcitrant and unrepentant they may be, which perhaps they often are, as we might be to God and yet he still loves us and extends seemingly limitless grace.