One Sunday, the senior pastor at our church was teaching from a well-known scripture. I’m not sure which Gospel he was using, but here’s an excerpt from the recounting that is found the book of Mark:
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
Mark 12:29-30 NLT
This is something that I have heard many times (including the source that Jesus was referencing from the book of Deuteronomy). Still, it hit me in a different way that morning: What if my only goal when I set about my day was to love God? What would that look like? What would I do?
Yes, I love God (and, as I recall, the lyrics of one of the worship songs that morning allowed us to say exactly that), but I think that I had previously focused on obeying God (which is certainly an element of our love for Him – see John 14:15), rather than focusing on the fact that loving God is the most important commandment. I try to do things that I think are aligned with God’s will, and talk with Him (or at least to Him) daily, but is that the most important thing in my life?
So, I figured that I would try it out. On Monday, I set out to make loving God my main thing for that day. At times, I was distracted, but in those times when I remembered this focus, I was honestly not sure what I should do. How does one act when he or she loves someone – in the self-sacrificing way that we are to love God (i.e., unrelated to romantic love or, say, brotherly love)?
Well, when it comes to love, the classic “definition” can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
Still, while we can appreciate how this describes the way that God loves us, does it describe how we should love God? While we don’t have to worry about “keeping a record of being wronged” by God, I suppose that this passage does indeed give us some idea what loving God looks like. However, I think that I will have to take this passage apart to sort out what that might mean to me.
Should our love for God be…?
- Patient: Yes, I must wait for God’s timing, sometimes. See Psalm 27:14. His timing is always better than mine, but I can trust Him and choose to not force or rush things.
- Kind: While God can handle our raw thoughts and feelings, there are times when I should probably work harder to not be thoughtless (whether I am talking to God, or about Him).
- Not jealous: Sometimes I would like to spend more time with people when they are instead spending time with God. I wouldn’t mind owning everything, either. But, I could show God love by being less jealous of His other friends and the material things that He has allocated to others.
- Not boastful or proud: These go together. If I gave credit to God for what He has given me, I’d probably be talking about myself substantially less.
- Not rude: See “Kind”, above. They aren’t the same thing, but maybe our actions to show love to God in both ways are similar.
- Yielding: I often do want my own way. That’s what got me into trouble (i.e., sin) in the first place. I believe that following God’s way is loving, both in showing Him that we trust Him, and in recognizing Him as sovereign (i.e., in charge).
- Not irritable: See “Patient”, above!
- Not keeping score: Well, I at least don’t have to keep track of wrongs that God has committed, since He is – and always has been – perfect. I may perceive that I have been slighted by Him, but that’s just me.
- Rejoicing about truth, rather than injustice: This is definitely something that I can face during a typical day. There is plenty of both truth and injustice to go around, and I can show love to God by celebrating the former.
- Faithful: This is fundamental to following Jesus. I know that I stumble, but I can remain committed to God.
- Hopeful: For me to achieve this, I will definitely have to look beyond my circumstances. God is the only source of hope that I can truly count on.
- Enduring: Even if I were to show that I love God for a day, that would just be the start. Both good days and bad days are unique opportunities to demonstrate my love for Him.
So, what if loving God was our focus today? Not work or school or chores, but loving God? I think that we’d still find ourselves doing work, school, and chores (or whatever else fills our days), but we could do so in a way that not only shows God we love Him, but lets other people see that, as well.
Or, maybe the more concise instructions can be found here, in the words of Jesus:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 14:15 NASB
Maybe tomorrow, we could even add in the second commandment…loving our neighbor, too!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.