- Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NRSV
This passage is the foundation of prayer amongst those in the Jewish community that I know. Reciting the words of the Shema is important to the Jewish community and should be to Christians as well. On a different but connected note, I am often struck by how much emphasis is placed on evangelism in churches without an attention being given to "self-evangelism." Oftentimes we become so focused on proclaiming the good news to others that we forget that it is still good news for us as well.
The gospel message, along with the Shema, is not something that a person only needs to hear once in his or her life. The gospel message is good news every day and is a message that should be recited to our children, and talked about when we are at home and when wer are away. It is a message to be recited when we lie down at night and when we get up in the morning. It is a message that we should recite to ourselves constantly because we need to hear it just as much as anyone else. Just as Jews recite the Shema, and consider it to be the foundation of prayer, so too we should consider the Shema to be foundational alongside the message of the gospel. What would our lives and ministry look like if we were as concerned with "self-evangelism" as we were with proselytizing?
Oftentimes, I find that one of my pitfalls as a Christian is to be more concerned with the great commission than with worshipping God. Don't get me wrong, I believe proclaiming the message of the gospel to others to be worshipful, but sometimes it can come from a place of arrogance rather than humility. I find the Shema to be a beautiful reminder of our brokenness as human beings before an almighty God, much like the message of the gospel when we proclaim it to ourselves. Thus, I believe we as Christians would do well to heed the words of Deut 6:6-9, and to recite these words often as our Jewish brothers and sisters do.