Shema


Deuteronomy 6:4-9“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The first word in that verse, translated “listen” in English, is the Hebrew word Shema. Pronounced “shuh-mah.” The idea isn’t just to hear or listen, though. The force of the word is to hear AND obey. According to Eugene Merrill, “’To hear’, in Hebrew lexicography, is tantamount to ’to obey,’ especially in covenant contexts such as this. That is, to hear God without putting into effect the command is not to hear him at all.” (New American Commentary – Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Shema is one of the most important ideas in the Jewish faith. It is the focal point in morning and evening Jewish prayer services and is recited twice a day by observant Jews. Even children are taught to say it before they go to sleep at night.

The Shema is a declaration that God alone is God. There are no others. And he is to be listened to and obeyed. The most important commandment, as seen here, is to love him with all of our heart, soul and strength. Jesus reaffirmed this in Matthew 22:34-40. He was asked what the most important commandment is in the law of Moses. His answer was to quote Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema. Then Jesus adds that there is a commandment that is second in importance. He quotes Leviticus 19:18 which says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he makes a fascinating statement summing up the answer to the Pharisee’s question. He said, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). In other words, basically all the other commands are derived from these. Paul, in a similar way, said, “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14).

In DMM circles, a “Shema Lifestyle” is defined as a lifestyle of hearing from God and obeying what he says. And what are we going to hear from God? That the way we love him, which is the greatest commandment, is by obeying him in loving and serving others, the second greatest commandment.

Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments… Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.” (John 14:15,21). 

What are his commandments that we’re supposed to obey if we love him? Paul says they can all be summed up in loving & serving other people. That’s what we mean by a Shema Lifestyle.

I once heard someone say in connection to these verses, “God’s love language is loving obedience.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

Just to be clear, since we’re talking a lot about obedience here, we’re not saying that we obey God to earn merit, favor, or a right standing before him. We obey him because we love him and obedience is one of the ways we express that love for him. We don’t obey because we “have” to obey; we obey because we “want” to obey as followers of Jesus. We are justified by faith alone, not by works. I figured you were reading it that way, but wanted to be clear.

I set all of this up to say, a Shema Lifestyle is a crucial component of a DMM strategy. Here’s why. I’ve repeated this multiple times in this blog already, but it’s worth repeating again.

Around the world, the #1 way DMMers find those interested in God is by serving them (healing prayer, kind deed, community service) while consistently, simultaneously, and culturally appropriately pointing to God.

In DMM, we are searching for the “person of peace,” or “those interested in God,” and the #1 way DMMers are finding those people is through Shema! Serving people and then pointing to God! This is huge!

Notice there were 2 parts to that statement about finding people interested in God. First, the act of serving someone through “healing prayer, kind deed, or community service.” We call these Shema Actions. Actions we take to serve other people out of love for God & obedience to God. But did you notice the second part of the sentence? We serve people and then we POINT to God! We call this “pointing to God,” Shema statements. It’s a simple explanation of why you’re serving someone.

If we serve someone (Shema Action) and we don’t tell them why, what might happen? They might think we’re serving them because we’re such good people & as a result, give glory to us. But we know that the only reason we’re serving people is because our lives have been changed by God. He’s the one who prompted us to serve them. By telling them this (Shema Statement), they give glory to GOD, not us, for our act of service. This is very important. 

Here are some examples of Shema Actions & Shema Statements:

  • Your family serves an exchange student by inviting them into your home for a year and you explain to them that the reason you’ve done that is because God has given you a love for the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • You mow your neighbors lawn because you know they’ve been sick & when they reach out to thank you, you let them know that God prompted you to do it because he said to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39)
  • You deliver coats in the winter to an impoverished neighborhood and tell them how much God loves them as you hand them coats for their family (John 3:16).
  • You visit some people in prison to see if there’s anything you can do for them and then explain to them that Jesus said that when we visit those in prison, in a sense, we’re visiting him (Matt 25:36-40).

These are just a few examples of how a Shema Lifestyle looks. And as we live a Shema Lifestyle, we are going to find people “interested in God” who will gather their oikos, start a Discovery Group, and eventually become a reproducing church. But it starts with Shema.

Every day, as disciples of Jesus, we should posture ourselves to “hear & obey.” Our prayer should be, “God, as we go throughout our day today, speak to us & show us how we can serve other people. Whether it’s as easy as opening the door for someone or as difficult as inviting someone to live in our home, help us to obey. Speak, your servants are listening. Lead us to the people you are preparing to receive your Word so we can make many disciples & see many churches planted.”

Can you imagine how different our lives would look if we started each day with this prayer? Can you imagine how many persons of peace we might find if our spiritual eyes and ears were open everywhere we went?

I once heard David Watson (Co-Author of Contagious Disciple Making) say that if we reveal ourselves to be “spiritual” people, persons of peace will often find US. How encouraging is that? How do we reveal ourselves to be spiritual people everywhere we go? SHEMA!

Let’s live Shema Lifestyles today!