This Is the Love of God

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, as God introduced Adam to his new home, God gave Adam a single command, a Law; it was a dietary command: Of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it. (Ge 2:16-17) It was very direct, simple and clear, placing a boundary on Adam’s behavior.

We may be accustomed to asking The Big Why, trying to understand the purpose of God’s Law. If we think we understand the purpose, are we more inclined to obey a divine law if we think it’s good for us? Otherwise, do we tend to give it less importance, perhaps even ignore it as irrelevant or unnecessary?

We might do the same with this first command, asking what God’s intent was in giving it to Adam.

Was it to protect Adam? Does a good father leave poison candy out on the counter and tell his son not to eat it? I think not; we keep poison out of reach of children, under lock and key.

Was it to give Adam understanding and instruction in how to live? Again, do we teach young children about guns by leaving them unsupervised, playing around with loaded weapons? No, we carefully show them how to use guns safely, and supervise them until they’ve have earned our trust.

Then was God simply giving Adam a very clear choice? Love and honor Me by submitting to Me as God, or don’t: you’re free to reject Me, to go your own way and suffer the consequences. Adam had Free Will; and God was giving him the opportunity to express it. If there’s any other possible motive in giving such a law as God first gave Adam, I’ve not seen it.

Perhaps there’s a hint in the very name of this forbidden tree: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s an appealing name, as if to call Adam to trust that God knows best, to continually deny himself this forbidden knowledge in order to commune with God. It’s as if God doesn’t want a relationship where He’s not respected, valued above all. And why not? Would Perfect Love allow anything less?

If this actually is God’s purpose and intent in His very first law, which seems likely, could this be so with the rest of His Laws? Giving us the opportunity to show Him we love Him? Again, Why not? Does God ever tell us this is the primary purpose of the Law?

God does, in fact, define what it means to love Him in these very terms: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. (1Jn 5:3aAnd He describes those who do love Him similarly: If a man love me, he will keep my words … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings. (Jn 14:23) God has given us His Law so we might show Him we love Him; if we don’t obey Him, we don’t love Him. (24) Thinking otherwise is self-deception. (Lk 6:46)

We reveal who we are by our response to God’s Law: we’re either children of disobedience (Ep 5:6), deliberately breaking His laws as we like, or we’re children of light (8), doing our best to obey Him as well as we can.

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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) When we deliberately break God’s Law we grieve Him, and this causes God to suffer. (He 3:17) How can we pretend to love someone, to be caring for them and seeking their good, when we’re wounding them on purpose, for no good reason? It doesn’t make sense; it’s a contradiction.

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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