This Is Love

God’s first and great commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. (Mk 12:30) It’s the mark of every child of God: we love Him. (1Pe 2:7) As in most everything, definitions are critical; they’re particularly helpful here.

Love has many shades of meaning: loving ice cream, a county, a song, a painting, a grandfather, a spouse, a teenage crush … it’s all vastly different. What do we mean by loving God?

Perhaps we have an affection for Him, a sense of loyalty and appreciation, a fondness for Him and a passion to serve Him. This is essential in loving God, but is it sufficient? Can we feel this way about God and still not love Him?

God defines loving Him as obeying His commands (1Jn 5:3); if we aren’t obeying Him the best we know how we don’t yet know Him (1Jn 2:4), much less love Him (Jn 14:21), or anyone else. (2Jn 1:5-6) Apart from obedience to God’s Law, all sentiment and service is nothing. (Mt 7:22-23)

God’s commands are His testimonies, how He reveals Himself and expresses His nature. (Ps 119:18) The new man in every child of God delights in His Law (Ro 7:22), because God’s writing them on our hearts and into our minds. (He 10:16) We meditate on them (Ps 119:97) and rejoice in them (Ps 119:14), being quickened, energized (Ps 119:93) and enlightened through them (Ps 119:104); they’re profoundly priceless to us, our litmus test for everything. (Is 8:20)

It’s so easy to deceive ourselves here it’s frightening. (Je 17:9) Our old man hates God’s Law and can’t submit to it (Ro 8:7), so we tend to dismiss it as optional and make up our own way as we go, reinventing Jesus as we wish Him to be, an idol of our own device, and place our affection there.

Let’s prove ourselves the way God says (2Co 13:5), in the light of His commands (Ps 119:105), putting on Christ and asking Him to incline our hearts to His Way (Ps 119:36), to enable us to cleave to Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him. (1Jn 2:28)

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6 thoughts on “This Is Love”

  1. I would say there is more to loving God than just obeying Him. I think that’s just the beginning. I mean, would you feel like I loved you if I did everything you said and obeyed you perfectly but never talked to you, spent time with you, or hugged you? I think that is scary, a dangerous place to be, to say that I love God because I follow His law. Did not the Pharisees follow God’s law? Did they love Him? I think that if we love God, yes we will obey Him. But, if we obey Him, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we love Him. So I think there is more, and to define love only by our obedience is like saying that I love you because whenever I come over to your house, I do everything you ask of me, and yet never speak a word to you. I think that in that scenario, I could easily be motivated by fear, and not out of love. So, I took the definition of loving God a bit further, a bit deeper. Below, I wrote out my thought process on the subject. Let me know what you think.

    What was God’s greatest command? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To love God with all your HEART, your SOUL, your MIND, and all your STRENGTH. Okay, so to OBEY God, we can use our strength, to physically do what He has asked us to do. I’d say we could obey God with our mind as well, by taking every thought captive, purifying our thoughts, not judging people, staying humble etc. But then how would we obey Him with our heart or our soul. I don’t know about you, but I am not necessarily conscious of my soul. I’m conscious of my heart, my feelings and my passions and my emotions, but I am not sure how you would actually obey God with your heart either. I mean sure, you could make sure your motives are in check when you obey Him, but I think the heart is more than just motives. I think it is feelings, emotions and passions as well.

    So, I agree, if we love God, we will obey Him, but I do not think that if we obey Him, we necessarily love Him, I think there is more to it than that.

    So, to love God with all your heart. What does that mean? Well, from my perspective, I believe it to be a fervent passion, a desire for Him, to be with Him. That feeling that you can’t really describe, when you long for someone so much that it physically hurts. For example, it was really hard for me to leave Jonathan after break. While I was driving back to Florida, I didn’t get audio books to pass the time necessarily, I got them to distract me, because if I wasn’t distracted I would start thinking about him and break down and cry, and scream, and question what I was doing driving a thousand miles away from him. Was I just being selfish? Should I have stayed in Texas so that I could be with him and care for him and make sure that he did okay? That’s what my heart was feeling. Now of course, my mind knew that he would be okay, because he has people there to take care of him and who love him, and he knows how much I love him, but that didn’t keep my heart from aching for him. My mind also knew that at some point, I would have to learn how to live my life away from him if I was going to live in another country, but that didn’t keep my heart for weeping at our separation and for questioning if my motives were sound. Now that was a very long example, but I think it is relevant to the question, how do we love God? I think there is a feeling involved. Not a feeling like happy or sad, but a longing, a feeling of desire for Christ. A desire to spend the rest of your days with Him, to not miss a single second with Him, to hear every word He says, and to truly know Him. Now, unlike God, we are not perfect in our love, and the love we do have for Him is a result of His graciousness and unconditional love to begin with, but so is everything else. Our entire being is a result of His graciousness. So I think that in addition to obeying Him, loving Him means that we have a desire and passion for Him, a desire and passion that He instilled in us by His graciousness, but nonetheless it is a feeling and a longing for Him. So I wouldn’t be so hasty to dismiss ‘our feelings’ as unimportant in how we love God. He did give us feelings, and emotions, and hearts, and He created everything to glorify Himself, so I think that our heart’s desire to be with Him and our feelings of passion for Him are just as important as our obedience to Him.

    Now, loving God with your soul. What does that even mean? I’m not even really conscious of my soul, and honestly, I’m not even entirely sure how to define ‘my soul’. But, I think that loving God with your soul is like loving God with your being. In the excerpt from Merton, it says, “After that we go forth to find Him in solitude. There we communicate with Him alone, without words, without discursive thoughts, in the silence of our whole being.” This is the beginning of what I think it means to love God with your soul, to love God with your being: to just be, to communicate with Him through the silence, to exist as the creation in the presence of the creator, and to connect with Him on a deeper level than we can comprehend with our minds, or even feel for Him in our heart. It is the connection of our being with His being, our soul and His. It is something beyond what language can convey, because language is how we communicate with our minds, and this is communication of the soul, of the spirit, of our being. So, due to the limitations of language, it is hard to explain this connection of the soul, but I hope that you will get an idea of what I mean by this.

    Anyway, this was just my take on it. I think that obeying God is an expression of our love for Him, but perhaps not the foundation of our love for Him. I don’t think love can be simplified, I think it is a very complex thing and something far beyond the act of obedience. Yes, we must obey Him, and we should obey Him, but we do so because we love Him, it isn’t the love itself. I think love is found deeper within us than surface level actions. I think it is something that our Creator instilled in us, something in every fiber of our being that He flawlessly designed to be a part of us. So to try and simplify it would be to limit its beauty, its complexity and its power, and who are we to attempt that?

    Let me know what you think! Love you! 😉

    PS: I really enjoyed writing this email! It took me a while, but it was a nice way to spend Shabbat morning and I think I understand my own thoughts on the subject better after writing them out 🙂 Shabbat Shalom!!

    1. Wow!!

      I couldn’t agree with you more! Very well thought out and expressed. Read it through a couple of times … priceless!

      My thoughts …

      Though, as you noted so well, I didn’t mention in the post how vital emotion is in loving God, I didn’t intend to (and I don’t think I did) say that emotion isn’t important in loving God; I think it’s vitally necessary.

      I think a very big part of obeying God, perhaps the biggest part, is delighting in Him, enjoying Him, wanting to be with Him and fellowship with Him (“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2Co 6:16), including Him in every detail of our thoughts and lives and enjoying every moment as a gift from Him to enjoy with Him, wanting to be perfectly aligned with Him and to please Him in all things.

      I believe anything other than this isn’t obedience, it isn’t love, because a cold disposition toward God (which I think the Pharisees had), any sense of alienation from Him or wanting to be apart from Him, is itself a violation of His Law. (e.g. “Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.” De 13:4)

      However, while I agree that emotion is necessary in loving God, I also think it’s insufficient in itself, and I think it’s important for us to understand this, and to help others see it. Here’s why.

      How many people do you know who claim to love God and be in right relationship with Him, and also appear to you to love Torah, the Old Testament, Mosaic Law?

      Torah is the primary way God has chosen to reveal His character and nature to Man. (“And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Lk 16:31) The Apostle Paul says our “new man” delights in Torah. (“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” Ro 7:22)

      I believe Jesus Christ sang Psalm 119 when He walked the earth, and He wants us to sing it. (“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col 3:16 ) I expect He still sings it in Heaven, and that we’ll join Him in doing so. And I think He means it when He sings it, and that He wants us to think and feel from the depths of our being: “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (vs 72) “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” (vs 20) “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (vs 97)

      Now, perhaps you know differently, but I don’t need both hands to count up the people I know personally who reflect a genuine love for Torah and a desire to obey it in their lives. Yet nearly everyone I know seems to think they’re good with God, that they love Him and are serving Him; they’re not struggling with a fear of dying or of needing to get right with God.

      How can this be, that people think they love God when they don’t love what He loves, ignoring and despising the primary way He’s chosen to reveal Himself to us?

      Could it be that most people don’t have any idea what loving God really means? That they are deceived, at enmity with Him while thinking they’re OK?

      I think so. If people are thinking they love God, that they’re in a right relationship with Him, but they don’t also love and obey His Law like He does … rather, they actually despise and neglect Torah … then I think they’ve conjured up another god in their own mind, an idol; it isn’t the Creator they are actually loving. I think their old man is in charge, and that they’re deceived and in trouble with God. (“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Ro 8:7-8) One way to help others discover this for themselves is, I think, to try to point out the inconsistency – the light of God’s Law can expose the old man for what he is, a great big lie. (“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” Ps 119:104)

      The point/purpose of the post was to try to point this out: that it’s inconsistent to claim that we love God when we aren’t loving and obeying His Law in every way that we can.

      Your thoughts??

      Shalom!

    2. A further thought here.

      As I think more about my response below, what I say about people not loving God because they aren’t obeying Torah may be a little unfair, due to the fact that most Christians are taught (and so believe) that they aren’t responsible to obey certain parts of Torah. I was this way after I got saved for quite a long while: saved and obeying everything I thought I was supposed to the best I could, but still neglecting parts of Torah due to wrong teaching. I would say that I loved God during this time even though I wasn’t obeying all of Torah that I could.

      However, I think the general idea and concern I have still holds, even if we limit the concept of obedience to commands which Christians agree are relevant, like the Decalogue, the commands of Christ and Paul in the New Testament, etc. Increasing the scope like this includes a couple more people I would perceive as being obedient, but not many at all. I’m certainly not the judge, but very few seem to me to really be trying to obey God the best they can, based on what they know, yet still seem to think they are in a good place with God in spite of that.

      Anyway … looking forward to your thoughts, as/if/when you get to it.

      1. But as far as your response, I agree, emotion is not enough when it comes to loving God, but I don’t think I said that either. I definitely believe that loving God involves the 4 aspects of heart, soul, mind and strength, and I think the obedience definitely falls under the mind and strength category, but the heart and soul are equally important aspects. I guess I just got the wrong impression from your blog post because of this line, “God defines loving Him as obeying His commands”…. so nothing else? And this line, “Perhaps we have an affection for Him, a sense of loyalty and appreciation, a fondness for Him and a passion to serve Him. That’s all well and good, but we can feel this way about God and still not love Him.” While the statement is not necessarily false, your diction choices in my opinion implied a sort of condescending tone on those aspects of passion, which I now see was not the intent. However, to say “that’s all well and good” came across to me as saying that those things were not necessarily bad, but nonetheless unimportant, and I believe them to be equally as important. But that is the difficulty of language, it is all up to interpretation. So from an editing standpoint, I would suggest modifying that “well and good” phrase so that it doesn’t imply that passion is less important.

        Love ya!
        Mia

  2. Tim, Mia

    Thank you both for these expressions. One General comment: “God IS Love”. At the very least, since GOD IS Love — scripture is what defines love. That leaves out most lust except the marriage bed, and it surely leaves out food. Loving Celery for example, I can’t find in scripture. If GOD IS LOVE, then HE defines what love is. I’ve appreciated if I give my body to be burned but have not love it profits me nothing as one example. If I have faith to move mountains but have not love, it profits me nothing. Since faith works thru love, I am somewhat perplexed here — but that is my place to live and learn. Very edifying to listen in so to speak on the conversation here.

    1. Does anyone actually love celery? 🙂

      Seriously, I think this is where our language breaks down; thankfully and enthusiastically enjoying (“loving”) food certainly is scriptural. (“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” 1Ti_6:17) I don’t think the food at the Marriage Supper will be less than amazing.

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