According to Batterson, the “primal commandment” is the Great Commandment of Matthew 22.34-40 (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind). The first section of his book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, is devoted to loving God with all of our heart. But I find it curious that when Batterson writes of loving God with all of our heart, he defines the chief heart emotion as compassion, specifically, compassion for those in need. He even describes compassion as the “ultimate apologetic” (17). He writes,
What does it mean to love God with all our hearts? It means our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God. It means we have identified the God-ordained passion that makes us glad, sad, or mad. It means inaction is not an option, because the compassion of Christ is the driving motivation of our lives. (31)
For Batterson, compassion, or “Spirit prompted generosity in the face of greed” (32), is the primal essence of what it means to love God with all of our heart. While I cannot argue that those who love Christ ought to love the things of Christ. And it would be impossible to argue against the idea that Christ lovers ought not be okay with suffering or injustice or starvation. However, I do wonder how Batterson was able to twist “loving God” into “loving others.” It seems that he skipped the first greatest commandment and went directly into the second greatest commandment.
Where is the love for God? Where is the delight in the beauty and greatness of who God is? Why isn’t love for God defined as enjoying and delighting in His greatness and responding to that greatness with affection and wonder? I disagree with the premise that love for God can only be expressed in love for another person. And when Batterson spends the majority of the section on “loving God with all of our heart” on giving money to meet the needs of the poor, I think something important has been missed. Yes, we are to love our neighbor, but let us not skip over loving God for the simple reason that God is so lovely. If we can not see the loveliness of God, then we have failed the first and greatest commandment.
I will post more as I read more…