Do we love God enough?
It’s been my observation that we celebrate and bask in the love God has for us with more regularity than we contemplate and focus on our love for Him. The mere writing of this sentence cautions me to be careful not to slip down the slope of a works justification approach.
I believe that God’s love for us and His grace is the source of our salvation. I would propose that a consideration of our response to such grace is to love God back.
This is entrenched deeply in scripture and in God’s ultimate agenda for us as His children. In Deuteronomy 6 the directive is inescapable.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” NIV
Jesus would bring this passage and Leviticus 19:18 together when he sums up the law and the prophets with this maxim:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 34-40)
In recent years I have spent no little time concentrating on how Christian faith is expressed in loving our fellow man. The impact we have on the world is in direct proportion to how much we express love to our fellow human beings. Helping the fallen, feeding the hungry, clothing the unclothed, and offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty are all expressions of love for God’s creation, His beloved. There is no need whatsoever to lessen these efforts or to think they can be overdone. We will have no effective witness toward those to whom we turn a cold and indifferent shoulder.
I want to suggest to you however, that as important as is our calling to love our fellow human beings, we must be just as intentional in fostering a robust and growing love for God.
We must find ways to grow in our love for God in increasing measure.
Marcus Borg explores loving God in his book, The Heart of Christianity. Borg supports the idea that loving God is about “practice”. He says, “loving God means paying attention to God and what God loves.” Admittedly this is not rocket science and one doesn’t need the credentials of Marcus Borg to conclude that loving is about paying attention to the one we love. A good start to this “paying attention” discipline is to recall the things God has done for us.
I find myself coming to love God more because:
1) He made me in His image. Genesis 1:27 Think on this one long and hard. The supreme Deity made us with a particular purpose and identity in mind. I love God for that. He didn’t have to do things that way but He did. I love Him for that.
2) God makes Himself accessible. From Genesis 4:26b we are instructed that even in the earliest of times men came to call upon the name of the Lord. Some say this is an early reference to prayer. The other side of the calling out is the listening ear of God. Exodus 3:9 says the crying out of the Israelites in Egyptian bondage got the attention of God. He subsequently provides the outstanding leadership of Moses and some pretty impressive miracles in response to this cry. I love God for that. We cry out. He hears. He responds. Who wouldn’t love a God like that?
3) Throughout all history God intervenes with guidance, correction and discipline to dissuade us from self-destructive and harmful sinful behaviors because he cares what happens to us. Hebrews 12: 4ff reminds us that God’s discipline comes to us by way of relationship. He disciplines as “sons”. We are his children. He corrects out of love. I love God for that.
4) God demonstrates his love for us even when we are not deserving. Summed up best in the words of Paul, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 18 NIV A God who loves me into being the best version of myself I can possible be, leaves me no choice but to fall in love with Him. To paraphrase something I heard a while ago……we would do well to remind ourselves that we are worse off than we think we are. On the other hand, we are far more loved than we can possibly imagine. I am coming to love God more and more as I make an honest assessment about my own humanness and frailties and how extreme is the extension of God’s grace to me.
5) I am coming to love God more and more because of the ultimate outcome of human history and what God has laid out for us. Human history began as a project of God with mankind in close relationship with Him in the Garden. It all began as a relational project and it will culminate in the most intimate of all relationships. For some of us, our human history will conclude with death. For others it will be at Christ’s return. Either way, we get to look forward to an eternity with God. My love grows for a God who gives this kind of promise, hope and destiny.
Paying attention to what God has done and is doing, brings me to a greater love for Him with each passing day. I’ll have the venerable apostle John deliver the final word for now:
“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:2-4