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.