Love the Lord Your God (3)

In John 14: 15 Jesus states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

We have been taught that the love of God is unconditional.  That word “if” seems to place a condition.

Yes it does, but the condition is not on God’s love for us but on our ability to love God.   Jesus states that true love of Him is tied to our keeping the commandments God has given to us.

We human beings are very good at rationalization.  In fact, we are so good at it we that we believe our rationalization are what make up reality.  We reason what we want and then believe this is the way it must be.  We can get angry at other people and then blame them for our anger.  We reason they made us angry.  No, we respond to a stimulus in ourselves and decide to be angry.  The creation of anger is all our own.  A person does something and we respond with sadness.  We say they made us sad by their actions or inactions.  No, we chose to respond out of our reason with a reaction of sadness.  When we say we love God are we responding with an emotion made of our reason, our rationalizing that we “love” God?  Have we set the criteria for what constitutes love?  What role does God have in this?

God’s commandments set up the foundation for true reality.  God’s commandments come out of God’s very nature.  God is love.  God sets the standard.  God’s commandments set the standard for behavior within reality.  God states that love is defined within the actions God has determined.  If we are to love then we must conform to this reality.  There is no room for our rationalizations within this reality, thus the condition, “if you love me.”

In our mortal state, corrupted by our nature, our rationalizations are not a reliable standard by which to judge what is true or real.  This is why God must give us the gift of grace to be able to respond to God and to come to understand what truth is.  The command to love the Lord our God is a command to action.  This action is not determined by our reason but by God’s revelation.  Without our accepting this we are caught in a cycle of reasoning that is centered in deception.  Grace opens us up to the chance to break out of the cycle of human rationalization into the reality that God desires for us to know.  In responding to grace we can keep the commandments God gives to us.  Grace reveals to us this reality and gives us the ability to take action in accord with it.  It also gives us a basis for self reflection on how we are doing.  We can look at our lives and the commandments God gives and see if they are in sync.  In this way we can know what real love is.

Loving God takes a commitment on our part.  It is a duty that becomes a delight.  This is a hard task in our world that places so much emphasis on our deciding what we want rather than discovering what we really need.  So if we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, and might we need to understand we can only do this IF we keep God’s commandments.

 

Love the Lord Your God (2)

I have added a question to the pre-marital counseling I do.  The question is, “What would hold this marriage together if you could not have sex?”

The purpose of this question is to get the couple to think about their relationship is there was not a physical dimension to it.  What is the basis for your love outside of the physical part of the relationship.  What ultimately is your love for one another founded upon?

What is our love for God founded upon?  Is it love to say I love God because of what God has done for me?  I believe it most certainly could be.  A deep relationship can be built out of acts of sacrifice and devotion.  Certainly the cross was an ultimate act of love and commitment by Jesus.  But for the relationship to become more than a attitude of gratitude there must be more to the connection.  For our love to founded upon what God has done there must be a desire that comes from God’s action that makes us desire to want a deeper attachment and a growing commitment.  Eventually the love founded upon the action must lead to a love of the character God.  This love of character can only come about through a developing intimacy.  Intimacy comes from vulnerability (trust) and commitment.

This seems complicated.  It should be.  If it is complicated it is less likely to be taken for granted.  A relationship that is taken for granted is in danger of being an illusion rather than a reality.  God never takes us for granted.  Do we take God for granted?  This is no way to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, and might.

Love the Lord Your God

Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment and his response was, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and with all your might.”

But how do we love the Lord?

In our culture people usually say they fall in love with someone through initial contact with the senses.  That is, they see the person, talk to the person, touch the person.  But how do we fall in love with God who is spirit?  Some people have dramatic encounters in which they become aware of God’s presence in a real and powerful way much like Paul did on the road to Damascus.  But not everyone comes to know God in this way.  Even those who have a dramatic experience do not usually talk about suddenly becoming in love with God.  To love the Lord is not usually spoken of as love at first sight.

So how do we come to love the Lord?

Our relationship with God begins as an act of God.  Love originates in God.  Love is the very essence of God.  God loves us.  God’s grace, which comes from the very nature of God, comes to us and enables us to chose God.  Reciprocal love requires a choice.  If there is not choice then the love is one sided and our love would merely be an imposition of will.  But on what basis do we make the choice? 

I believe responding to love as being loved is the foundation for our loving God.  As we respond to the initial action of prevenient grace God gives us an ability to respond.  This ability becomes a responsibility on our part.  Love requires a commitment and commitments are founded upon responsibility.    

What are our responsibilities in loving the Lord?

There is a definition of love that comes from the social sciences: 1) Love is wanting to be with the person you are in love with; 2) Love is willing to do for the one you are in love with; and 3) Love is being transparent with the one whom you love. 

In our loving God we should want to be with God.  How is this accomplished?  Well, there is prayer which is the deliberate focus of ourselves on communicating with God.  Some of us are awkward at this because we do to not understanding the presence of God or thinking that we must become religiously skilled to effectively pray we neglect prayer.  Also, prayer is often put in the category of wish lists or crisis management.  One way to overcome this is by reading the Psalms and understanding that they are conversations with God (prayers) and then, in the same manner, seek to speak about our own lives to God.  This is a way to make this communication (and time with God) more effective.  Also, wanting to be with others who love God is a way to spend time with God that helps grow the relationship.  I will bring this up in another blog on this subject at a later date.

In wanting to do for God we need to know what God wants.  To find out what God wants we need to read the Scripture.  It is not acceptable to remain in ignorance in a relationship.  God’s word has been given to us to give us understanding of life and of love.  It gives us a foundation on which to live up to our responsibilities in the relationship.  In 1 John we are told that if we do not desire to keep the commandments of God we do not love God. 

Well, what about what we want?  Is God supposed to do for us?  Yes and God does, more than we can ever imagine.  However if our affection for God never grows more than its infantile inception we probably will not recognize just all that God does, nor will we understand that our wants can be harmful and love does not harm the subject and object of its affection.

And then there is transparency.  The problem here is not about our being transparent with God for God can see into the very depths of our soul.  Neither is the problem of God being transparent with us for our God is a revealing God who unveiled the divine personage in Jesus.  No the problem is our own self deception.  We tend to create an image of ourselves and allow that image to be how we think God sees or does not see us.  We also use this “looking glass” self to view others.  This leads to some of our greatest failures, limitations, and suffering.

True love is a growing, living relationship that has its seasons and cycles.  It has its requirements and its desires. It is a way of being that requires attention and involvement.  This is why the commandment insists it be done with all our heart, soul, and might.