In our family worship time we've been spending a lot of time lately on the subject of loving God and loving others—basically the two great commandments given to us by Jesus (Matthew 22:37–40). What does that love look like? Is it a feeling? An act?
In 1 John the Apostle talks over and over about loving others, and repeatedly does so in the context of reminding us of God's great love for us. It seems that as we reflect on, and respond to, God's love for us we inherently love Him more, and that love gives to us a capacity to love others. It tells us that we love because He first loved us. So if our love for others is tied into our love for God (which is made possible by His love for us) then what does it look like to love God?
I asked the question this morning, "If you were to go on trial tonight for the charge of loving God would the evidence of your day be enough to convict you?"In other words, what does a life look like that loves God and has God's love perfect in it?
Obedience: In John 14:15–24 Jesus makes it undeniably clear that a love for Him will result in an obedience to Him and His words. It makes sense. When we love someone we want to please them and honor them. It is a fascinating thing that the Apostle John says, "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected . . ." (1 John 2:4-5). When we keep His word, it perfects, completes, carries to fulfillment, the love of and for God!
Loving Others: John says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7–8). We love others as a choice. As an action. Love is also a fruit of the Spirit of God in us, and we are given a capacity to love others because as a believer God is in us, and He loves them. Sometimes loving others is an "act" of surrendering to God's love in us for them.
Additionally, John says, "No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12). This is another stunning statement. When we love others, it also brings to perfection His love through us! I love this procession: God loves us, we respond to that love, God comes to dwell in us, God loves others, we love others. God's love is perfected and carried to completion by His first loving us and ultimately our loving others!
Trust: Another "perfection" statement in 1 John that deals with perfecting God's love is found in 1 John 4:17–18 where it says that when we have confidence regarding the day of judgment then God's love is perfected in us—and if we have fear of punishment His love is not perfected in us. His love is perfected in us when we completely trust Him and His work on the cross and His word and His character and promises. And this makes sense, you can't love someone fully if you don't trust them and you despise their character and nature. You can fully commit yourself into someone when you trust them completely.
Time Guarded: Some of my earliest memories are my parents taking an hour or so each day to have a cup of coffee together after work and share the day, catch up, and just talk. Mary Ann and I have guarded this "tradition" of taking time each day to have a cup of coffee and talk in our own marriage. Even when we can't just sit together, but are able to work on a project together, we enjoy each other's presence and company. We are best friends, and just being together is joyful. Ephesians 5:22–33 tells us that a Christian marriage reflects God's love to the world, and I'd like to think that in guarding time together, and enjoying each other's presence in working together, we are revealing a bit about how love for God can look.
Priorities Revealed: Back when everyone wrote checks for everything someone said, "Don't tell me your priorities. Show me your checkbook register for the last month and I'll tell you your priorities." One could say the same today looking over credit card statements, check registers, online payments, etc. Our investments represent our priorities. Be it our financial investments, our time investments, etc. Jesus said to store up our treasures in Heaven, not on earth where moth and thieves and rust destroy. He said that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. If we want our heart to love God more then we must store up the treasures that He loves. We must invest our money and time in the things that He is invested in. The things eternal. The hurting, the lost, the poor, and the defenseless like the unborn and widows and orphans. Our treasures define our heart.
Along those lines, Jesus warns us against believing the lie that we can love both God and money, etc., when He says, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24). The Apostle John confirms this in 1 John 2:15–17 when he writes, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."
I do not believe this means we aren't to enjoy things. James 1 tells us not to be deceived but to know that every good and perfect thing is a gift from God to us. And the Apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:17–19, tells us God gives us things to enjoy. We just aren't to love those things, or get too fixed on them, but to rather love and be fixed on the One who gives them to us. The full passage is revealing when it says, "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
Least of These: Jesus said that God sees whatever we do for the "least of these" as if it was done for Him—and whatever we neglect to do for them, He sees as having neglected to do for Him (Matthew 25:31–46). So, when we love the "least of these" He says He receives it as loving Him. When we visit the sick, the prisoners. When we feed the hungry. When we defend the unborn. When we spend time with the rejected. When we love them He says we are loving Him, and in 1 John 3:17 the question is asked, "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"
Inevitably in any discussion of helping others comes all the questions, "What if I get taken advantage of?" or, "What if I am enabling someone?", etc. I believe the Holy Spirit must guide us in each moment, but I can say in my own life that God has given me ten thousand fold more than I've ever had taken from me. I'd always rather error on the side of love and being taken advantage of, then miss a moment God had positioned me for. Besides, I don't know what fruit my act of kindness might bear down the road as the Holy Spirit moves on someone and convicts their heart and brings them to repentance. Ultimately, in these moments, I have to ask myself, "What is my goal?" Because if my goal is to love God in giving to another, then whatever they do with it is between them and God—I have met my goal.
These are just a few thoughts we've arrived at regarding loving God and others. Maybe you have more. It has been a special week plus talking it over, and I look forward to continuing it. Thanks for sharing in my life. In a way, now, you've sat in on family worship with us . . . you just need a good cup of coffee to "perfect" it.