Most Christians would say that they love God. Jesus says this is the prime commandment – “Love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But, what do we mean when we say it? How do we think of ‘loving God?’ Truly loving God is about more than feeling the right set of emotions in church. It demands more of us than keeping a Bible on the living room table or playing Christian music in our home. We love Him truly when He defines our life, when He owns us.
A few days ago I passed a display of red rose bouquets. Ah, they were beautiful. I stopped to look at them as memories of another era in my life returned. I bought hundreds of roses for Bev during our 41 years of marriage. Sometimes it was just a single one, sometimes 2 dozen. More than once as I paid for them, the clerk would joke, “OK, mister, what did you do?” implying that the flowers were an attempt to right some wrong. They were a symbol of a heart-felt passion, a way to tell her she was always in my mind, that she owned my affections. Imagine if I thought that those roses were all that she wanted or needed from me. They had to be matched with fidelity, sacrifice, understanding, support, and commitment!
Loving God is a faith choice, an act of the will, real commitment to Him above all others. Jesus says it simply and clearly: “If you love Me, keep my commandments!”
Our love for Him is not transactional, it is covenantal. A transactional relationship is based on self-interest. It begins with my needs. It makes demands of the other person. It depends heavily on performance. Basically, a transactional love says “I love you as long as you make me happy, as long as you are focused on meeting my needs.” That expectation that he or she must always meet “needs” presses the life out of a marriage, weighing down the relationship. Days are filled with endless fights as each partner tries so hard to protect their own interests, often concealing selfishness behind talk about ‘fairness.’ The breakdown is inevitable when this thought overtakes every interaction: “If you won’t meet my needs then I certainly will not meet yours.”
We might be reluctant to admit it, but when we ‘fall in love’ with another person, it is always transactional. We like the way she looks, the way she makes us feel about ourselves, the affection she offers to us. Marriages that do not mature into a self-less, covenantal love will likely falter. No single human can possibly meet every need of another. A covenant love is selfless, seeking the best of another without consideration of cost or return.
As you think about loving God honestly ask yourself if your love is transactional or covenantal?
Do you have a list of expectations attached to your ‘love’ for Him?
When He is silent, when He allows you to experience disappointment, do you still ‘love’ Him
r, is your love for Him constant, faithful, devoted, and honoring?
As we think about loving God, there is a key truth. Loving Him is made possible ONLY because He loved us first. He loves us to life, He seeks us when we are lost, He reaches out to us. “While we were sinners, Christ died for us,” Paul says. John tells that “God so loved the world that He gave His Son,” to save us! Can we read those words and shrug? We can, but should not. Rather His love can stir a deep and holy passion in us. Get your heart into it! Do away with apathetic prayers, feeble efforts, and other affections. Seek Him.
We can love Jesus with passionate commitment and He is worth it! Moses called on God’s people to commit themselves. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, NIV) God’s ways needed to go deeper than a few ideas, they needed to be written on their hearts, the center of love. When asked what was the basic thing that God desires, Jesus referred to those ancient words. “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ (Matthew 22:37 The Message )
Let me return to my own experience with marital love. The rich return of a covenanted love became clearest in the deep suffering of Bev’s last months of earthly life. Cancer gradually stole her strength, made her as dependent as a baby on me. In the worst days, her emotional and physical pain made it impossible for her to even think about what Jerry needed or wanted. But, because we had matured in love with years of serving one another in good and bad times, I found caring for her, comforting her, holding her close a great joy, an expression of a quality of love neither of us could have even imagined in better times.
A time will come to us all when most all of the things we think we love or need are removed from us by age, by illness, or a changing world. But, nothing can take away the love of God when we have learned how to be truly loved and to truly love. “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)
As He loves you, love Him; not as a transaction, but in a covenanted way.
Here is a word from the Word. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16-18, NIV)
Father, I am so thankful that you loved me
when I cared nothing for You.
Win my heart again and again,
for there are other ‘loves’ that catch my eye
from time to time.
Draw my heart to Yours,
my affections going beyond words and romanticism.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
Spirit Of God Descend Upon My Heart (Morecambe)
Spirit of God descend upon my heart
Wean it from earth thro’ all its pulses move
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art
And make me love Thee as I ought to love
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee God and King
All Thine own soul heart and strength and mind
I see Thy cross there teach my heart to cling
O let me seek Thee and O let me find
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love
One holy passion filling all my frame
The baptism of the heav’n descended dove
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame
Frederick Cook Atkinson | George Croly © Words: Public Domain