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The Shema Exchange

Keith Allmon /

The Shema is one of the most well-known passages in the Torah for Christians and Jews alike. It is the bedrock of the entire Law, which is why Jesus quoted it when asked to name the greatest of the 613 Old Testament commandments (see Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28 for the synoptic accounts). The Shema – from the Hebrew word for “hear” – is so vitally important to the Jewish people that it is recited every morning and evening. For Christians, the Shema is seen as the synopsis of how individuals and families are to honor and obey God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says the following:


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


If the passage above is to be the key text regarding not only the Christian commitment to the true and living God but also the manner in which the faith is to be passed on to the next generation, then the Church of Jesus Christ is falling woefully short. We have exchanged the commands of the Shema for the shenanigans of culture. Simply walk through the text and see for yourself.


The Shema declares that there is only one God, and He is to be our only God. Culture declares that monotheism is too narrow-minded and exclusive.


The Shema demands we are to love God more than anything else in life. Culture demands that we sacrifice God for our jobs, for our politics, for our spouses, for our children, and even for strangers who happen to disagree with us.


The Shema commands us to intentionally instruct and train our children in the faith. Culture commands us outsource our children’s spiritual formation to church volunteers once or twice a month so that travel baseball, lake trips, and “family time” can become priorities.


Instead of Christian homes being filled with Scripture, they are being filled with secularism. Instead of biblically-centered melodies being sung together in the car, many families turn on the DVD player and miss the opportunity to connect their child’s heart to Christ. Instead of placing our hands and our eyes on things that honor God, we let children have unfettered, private access to the internet so they do not feel left out of their friend group.


Jude, the half-brother of the Messiah, has something to say to our current situation. In Jude 3-4, he urges his readers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Christian brothers and sisters, we must stop exchanging the commands of the Shema for the allure of culture.