Students exhorted to obey great and foremost commandment
Southwestern President Paige Patterson kicked off the spring semester at Southwestern Seminary by posing a question to the gathered students, faculty and staff during convocation, Jan. 18. He asked them, “Do you love Jesus?”
Acknowledging all the tasks that seminarians have to accomplish and all the subjects they have to study, Patterson nevertheless declared that the only thing that truly matters is whether they love Jesus. Preaching from Matthew 22:34-40, Patterson shared with the chapel congregation what Jesus said was the great and foremost commandment—“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Regarding the first element—that is, loving God with one’s heart—Patterson explained, “To love Jesus is to love to be with Him. Don’t tell me you love Jesus when you are not drawn to Him affectionately. Don’t tell me that you love Jesus when you pray only in the moment of desperate circumstance. Don’t tell me that you love Jesus when you don’t have time to read His Word. Don’t tell me that you love Jesus when you don’t think often about Him.”
Patterson noted that the apostles’ love for Jesus was evident in their wanting to always be with Him. Similarly, Jesus’ love for the Father was demonstrated through His waking early each morning to seek Him through prayer. “To love someone with all your heart is to be drawn to him/her in your affections,” Patterson said.
In regard to loving God with one’s mind, Patterson said this means wanting to know as well as obey what God says, just as Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Patterson continued, “So the mind comes into play in the classroom. [But] on a seminary campus, it’s not just a classroom, it’s not just a place for learning; it’s a place for learning with a view to obedience. I learn and I know in order that I may obey.”
Patterson then considered what Jesus meant by loving God with one’s soul. “He meant by that that you are to love the Lord your God without asking about the consequences; without worrying about what the price may be,” he said. “You love Him without ever inquiring about the sacrifices that will be made. You love Him so much that it doesn’t matter [what trials you face]; you just love Him regardless of the circumstances.”
Patterson thus concluded his sermon by reposing the question, “Do you love Jesus?” He continued, “Do you love to be with Him? Can that be demonstrated by your life? … Do you study to know what He says, and do you do it? … Do you never ask the price?” In response to the subsequent invitation that Patterson extended, one Southwestern student came forward to pray with a professor stationed at the altar.
In addition to Patterson’s sermon, the convocation service also included the welcoming of new college and seminary students; the public reading of Scripture; a time for corporate worship; and the welcoming of newly appointed and elected faculty. The two appointed faculty members were Dietmar Schulze, associate professor of missions at Bibelseminar Bonn, Southwestern’s partner seminary in Germany; and Andrew Streett, associate professor of biblical studies. The seven elected faculty members—elected at last fall’s trustee meeting—were Michael Crisp, assistant professor of collegiate ministry; Timothy Deahl, dean of the Southwestern Center for Extension Education and professor of Old Testament; Steven James, assistant professor of systematic theology; Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies; Mark A. Taylor, professor of conducting; Kyle Walker, assistant professor of preaching; and Hongyi Yang, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies.