Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Mar 12:30 ‘And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Mar 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.’
Luk 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Luk 10:26 He [Jesus] said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
Luk 10:27 And he [the lawyer] answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
Luk 10:28 And he [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
So, again my husband and I had an excellent conversation…one in which we did not exactly see eye-to-eye. The topic this time? Love. Not the love that most people think of. The lovey-dovey feelings and warm fuzzies of puppy love, the slightly lesser giddiness and more action oriented “thinking of the other” love, the gargantuan amounts of sex (in or out of marriage), the fighting to love each other while living together, and finally the “grow old and comfortable together” love that few today really get to enjoy. All of these are wonderful; I would not venture to look down on nor judge any of them. Personally, I am in the midst of this myself with my husband and would not change it for the world!
No, the love we were discussing was the unconditional love of God and the above quoted commandment of love given us by Christ. This past Sunday, service was taken over by an absolutely wonderful man of God – Rob Berg – who is a “musicianary” *chuckles* Oh how I enjoy that word. Anyways, one of the major points he brought up between his music was the unbelievable love story that is the Bible. It really is like a fairytale, the best fairytale in fact…one that all other love stories point to. It brought a fairly awkward revelation to me: I believe that God loves me, and that belief begets a fierce knowledge that can only be called faith…yet, I do not live like He loves me or – and this is worse – I do no consciously/intentionally return His love.
Ok, so the conversation started with me pointing out that very thing, then getting somewhat inundated with the all-too familiar, “well, we’re not Christ. You can’t expect us to be perfect in love.” To which, yes I agree, we can’t be. The thing is, we aren’t even really trying to; I mean, intentionally living with a full-out love for the God of the universe and letting that love spill out to the people around us.
Ok, sorry, got a little off topic. After a while of just getting on the same page with our definitions and understanding of ‘knowing’ that God loves us, we finally got to this point: our faith in God and His unconditional love is not in question (to be honest, it can be the only thing that gets us through a day sometimes). What we are lacking is the experiential aspect of God’s love. It’s all well and good to talk about all the good things He’s done in our lives and for us. But it seems we get so complacent, choosing not to acknowledge His hand of love in our lives, replacing it with apathy, or worse, with complaint.
This seems like a good time to throw in an example or something to illustrate what I mean. Father and son/daughter is a cliched visual, but it suites right now. Imagine being a parent – that is, if you aren’t already. You love your kid(s) innately from birth, and even before. Even the days they drive you crazy, you love them and will do everything you can to make their lives the best (even when it means saying no). In their young years, they love you and you know it without question. The first time they can tell you they love you, it’s the greatest joy and your heart almost bursts inside of your chest. They make pictures for you, and they sing for you, and dance for you, and just generally want your attention as much as possible because you are the world to them.
Why do they do that? Sometimes they do it so much it drives you up the wall!!! They want your attention because you matter so much to them…they were born to love you, to want you, to not be able to get to sleep without your nightly routine, to walk through the good and rough times with you, to lean on you and cry on you when they get hurt, to say “look mommy, look daddy!” when they are proud of their latest creation, to bring friends home to meet you and you can meet them! All throughout their lives, they will do this in one capacity or another – even when they seem like they hate you. By the way, they don’t actually hate you, they just have become complacent about your love for them…sound familiar?
The other example is lovers…another cliche, but it became a cliche for a reason. When my husband and I first met, it really was love at first sound. Not really first sight *laughs*. Back story: we met at karaoke. I was smoking hot (in his words) and he fell in lust at the moment. His face was full of pot marks from having a firework set off in his face 2 days earlier *smiles* so, suffice it to say he look a little odd. He was charm itself, and then we heard each other sing…it’s been a love affair ever since.
So, what happens then – see first paragraphs series of events of a love relationship. The constant fear is that love will be lost, right? We are, as Christians, called to a great love affair with Christ. When we’re first introduced to Christ, we become free from the slavery of sin (aka, we can now choose righteousness over unrighteousness, spirit over world). His ultimate act of love (taking on the sins of the world, becoming sin, taking the wrath of God in it’s entirety, dying in one of the most painful ways possible after being tortured for days on end, and doing it absolutely blamelessly) pierces our hearts and changes our views on life, death, good, evil, unrighteousness, love, and a myriad of things. We share our love, we study the word, we pray a lot, we’re on fire, we forsake the world for Christ. Then the freshness wears off and the world is right there, trying to get back into your life in any way it can!
We don’t notice at first, but oh that world will get us if we’re not intentionally loving Christ. The world says “you don’t have to pray that much, He can hear your thoughts, why do you have to pray? Just get comfortable here again.” and then, “you’ve read that Bible so many times, just put it down and spend a few hours with me.” and then, “you know you just imagined all that God love stuff, don’t you? I mean, really, you can’t even see Him. You can see me, taste me, drink me, smell me. Come on!” And all the while, we’re not really realizing how far away we’re walking away from our true love. Imagine if there was another guy in my life who sought to take my love away from my husband, not because he wanted it, but because he hated my husband and wanted him to suffer. What do you think this guy’s tactics would be? I doubt he would just outright tell me he hates my husband and that I should leave him! No, he’d befriend me and be the nice guy that I could trust. And then, when I don’t understand my husband or we have an argument or miscommunication issue, where would I turn to? Generally the person who has been showing the most interest in my life in a non-sexual way. Sure, I would go to my girl friends too, but they wouldn’t be as focused on me as this other guy because he’s trying so hard to be my closest friend. Heck, maybe his involvement in my life is what sparked a fight with my husband.
Imagine my husband noticing the amount of time I’m spending with this guy, me thinking it is all innocent…but my husband knows better. He brings it up to me in the kindest way possible, but my independent side rises up and says “hey, you don’t own me! You’re just being a jealous prick!” I kick against the pricks because I don’t understand that my husband is only looking out for my best interests and sees the game this other guy is playing. Well, that sounds pretty much like the battle being waged between Christ and the world for our hearts, our love, our affection (which, by the way, is the simple definition of worship).
So, how exactly do we experience God’s love and then return it and pour it out to others? That is the age old question. Well, let’s look at this in a logical manner, shall we? First and foremost, we need a fresh revelation of God’s love for us. How? Well, if we truly believe that the Bible is the inspired Word, and that the Word is Christ, and that Christ is love, and the way, and the truth, and the life, and that we only come to God through Him…maybe spending more time in the Word. It seems pretty simple. The scriptures also say that he who seeks shall find, he who asks shall receive, and to he who knocks the door will be opened. The only thing is, you have to accept what He chooses to give you, even if it isn’t what you think you should get…cause, really, who is going to know what’s best for you, you or the All-Knowing God?
“Ok, so read scripture…great…I’ve heard that before and it’s done really nothing.” I have heard this so many times, and it always comes back to the same thing: going in with a bad attitude. It never fails! If you go on a date with your significant other thinking “I’m not going to enjoy anything he/she has to say, I’m going to be bored, I’m not going to understand him/her, etc.” you are not going to leave the date with anything but disappointment and justification for the feelings you went in with (unless, by some miracle, he/she surprises you – which God can do). How about going in expecting God to reveal something from His living Word and not leaving until He does? Oh, but this means you have to DO something…note the sarcasm in that sentence. OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!! It’s a relationship, that’s what happens. Scripture says Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. That’s a promise, not a nice set of words. When God promises something, He delivers – every time – without fail. The question is, will you accept it, will you even be able to see it?
How do we see it? God is Spirit…how do we see something like that? Well, let me tell you, He’s a good God and reveal Himself in His Word. That is also a promise. Faith Comes by Hearing and Hearing by the Word of God. Also a promise. The Word of the Lord Never Returns Void. Another promise. So, how much more convincing do you need? Do you actually want to live the Christian life? Or do you just want to be a good person, comfortable in the world, running the rat race? There is a better race, one that Christ commanded we run, with our eyes set on the Prize – which is Him, if you didn’t know. We are living with the Kingdom of the Living God at our beckon call! We were told to boldly enter the throne room…NOW, not when we die, now! So, what is holding you back?
Oh, this opens up a whole new can of worms…one that we’ll get into later. For now, I could go on with more God promises about spending time in the Word or in prayer to receive the Words of life and truth by the Spirit of the Living God guiding and counseling us, but we should move on to the next thing. What about the first scriptures mentioned in this post?
Ok, so, in order to love, the Word says we love Him because he loved us first…hm, pretty self explanatory isn’t it? We truly cannot fulfill the above commandment until we experience His love and cling to that revelation with all our being. How do you love the people/things in your life? Well, God gave you the capacity to love those things (every good and perfect gift comes from God…love is a gift…you loving something, anything, is a gift from God…how you choose to use it, however, can be damaging). So, take the gift of love you already have and direct it toward Christ. Again, seems pretty simple on paper, right? Ok, let’s go back to the parent/child complex. We will inherit the Kingdom if we come to Him as the little children did…aka, our desire to receive attention from Him and create things for Him is an act of love. So, spending time with God is loving Him…go figure. Intentionally being with Him…and wanting to…matters.
But that’s only the half of it. All your heart, mind, soul, and strength! That seems like a tall order…and it’s scary because it may mean giving up other things in your life…or it may not. Only God knows right now – mainly because you haven’t been spending enough time with Him to find out for yourself. So, the whole Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you needs to be addressed here. Another promise. So, back to the lovers analogy. If I trust my husband as well as we are supposed to trust in God, then if he were to tell me tomorrow to quit my job and stay at home and do such-and-such, I would, without hesitation, do it. I would probably ask questions like ‘When?’ and ‘What will I do at home?’ and other such questions. Now, if I trust my husband as much as most people trust God, it would be more like “what? why? what am I going to do about money? how will I explain this to so-and-so?” and fear sets in…and, usually, so does disobedience. Ok, time for another promise. God pointed out that the birds do not worry about food or shelter or clothing because He provides for them, how much more will He provide for us. How about the parable of the father, when the son asks for fish, does not give a serpent…how much more will a perfect Father take care of His children?
That, my dears, is loving with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…but that only comes with time and energy spent developing the relationship. I did not trust my husband that much when we met or first got married, but we’re growing to that level of trust. Why aren’t we doing that with a perfect God…who knows the plan He has for us…for goodness, not for harm, to give us a future and a hope? Another promise.
The last part of that commandment…Loving others! Oh dear, how much do we have to talk about this in the Church before we get it? They shall know you by your love. That’s another promise, by the way. This does not mean love the people who love you, who are nice to you (although, love them too). This means love all those that cross your path! Ok, that seems pretty overwhelming, doesn’t it? Let’s, again, think about this logically…we are supposed to be walking in the fruits of the spirit, right? Love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. Ok, so we’ve figured out what to do to draw near to God, how drawing near brings a revelation of His love for us, reflexively creating a desire to love Him back in the best way we can, trusting in Him and His love for us. So, don’t you think that He’d show us the way to love our neighbours? Jesus is the light unto our feet and the lamp unto our paths, right? Another promise. So, he is the way, the truth , and the light throughout our entire lives…so, if He is truly “directing our steps” then He’s directing us into the lives of people He means you to love. So, love them, even if they drive you crazy. He is your strength, and His Word gives us the tools to deal with the terrors of this world…but, you actually have to spend time in His Word, take the words to heart, and practice them because you love Him!
If my husband asked me to stop using a certain swear word that I have become dependent on using, I would do it because I love him. If he asked me to treat one of his extended family members with respect even though I can’t stand that person, I would, because I love my husband and he matters more to me than my personal opinions and judgements. In time, I may even be able to gain the opinion of my husband as he shows me things about this family member that has led to his current behaviours. I could be WRONG! YES, I said it! We could be wrong about those people whom we struggle with or who struggle with us! In fact, we probably are wrong. The crops are white and ready to be harvested, which means that what we see with our eyes is only surface. What Christ sees is the cry of their heart for Him…even if they don’t know it yet.
Everyone wants to be part of a grand love story! So, let’s live it. And, while we’re at it, let’s bring others into it. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of love, joy, and a sound mind. The problem is…we didn’t accept the gift of love, joy, and a sound mind…because we have forgotten our first love! It’s time to go back, ask for forgiveness – again – and live the fairytale we were always meant to! It’s an adventure, it’s not easy – IT NEVER HAS BEEN! If you are living the easy life, you’re not living the dream! Just saying.