The Problem With Loving God
By Beth Demme
In the Gospel of Matthew, a lawyer (one of my people!) asks Jesus “which commandment is the greatest?” Jesus responds: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:34-38)
Did you catch that? The greatest and first commandment is that we are supposed to love God.
I spend a lot of time talking, thinking, and writing about how God loves us and how we can experience the love of God more fully and deeply. I believe that’s why Jesus went to the Cross—to show humanity unconditional, unstoppable love. And yet, the first and greatest commandment isn’t about how much God loves us. Instead, it’s about how we should love God.
I suddenly feel like I have my love on backward. Am I focused on myself as one-who-is-loved when I should be thinking of myself as one-who-loves? Is there a connection between the two?
The word for love here is agape, meaning unconditional love. In other words, the first and greatest commandment is to love God unconditionally with everything you have and everything you are.
Unconditionally. That means we love God when we are disappointed with his creation—whether it’s us or this broken world.
We love God when we are hurting, or sick, or mourning.
We love God when we can’t understand why people we love suffer from illness or injury.
We love God when today (or this week, or this month, or this life) is harder than it should be.
Even in the face of the worst circumstances, we can (and should) love God unconditionally with everything we have and everything we are.
The problem is, loving God this way means I can’t hold back parts of myself from God.
If I love God with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind, I have to trust God with my feelings, too. I have to trust God not only with my joy, but with my anger, disappointment, frustration, grief, and doubt.
If I judge my feelings and deem them unworthy of God’s attention (or unworthy of someone who knows she is loved by God), I’m loving God with something less than my whole heart, soul, and mind; less than my whole self.
I think the key to being able to love God without holding back is to think, again, about the cross. To remember that “[t]he central divine act celebrated by Christianity is God’s movement towards us, not the other way around.” (Kenda Creasy Dean)
Or, as the Bible says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
It turns out, there is a connection between being one-who-is-loved and one-who-loves, and the connection is God. We can love God with everything we have and everything we are because God makes it possible by loving us first.
What about you? Do you try to #liveloved? Do you hold back parts of yourself from God? Do you see yourself as one-who-is-loved-by-God and one-who-loves-God? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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