Love God. It’s not what I would necessarily expect God to ask of us, and it is not the only thing he asks of us. “Fear God.” That makes more sense. God is big, we are little. The Proverbs say, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Or maybe “Glorify God.” When the Westminster Confession of Faith was established by the Church of England in the year 1646, the first line of the catechism said that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We do what we do, not for our own credit, but to bring glory to God. Or maybe “Obey God.” God has given us ten big commandments and hundreds of little ones. I don’t think the Almighty would have given us rules without expecting that we would follow them. Maybe “obey God” is what is expected. Or perhaps “Serve God” fits better. How many stories did Jesus tell in which there was a master and a servant, the master representing God and the servant representing us? Maybe what God wants from us is to serve him. Or maybe “Worship God” makes the most sense. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” says the psalm. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing.” What can we really do for God, aside from offering him the sacrifice of praise. Or maybe the place to start is to thank God. For life itself, and for all the blessings of life, maybe what we should do is count our blessings, name them one by one, like the old song. Fear God, glorify God, obey God, serve God, worship God, thank God. All these make sense to me. All these I know how to do, whether or not I actually do them. But what God asks is that we love him, with all our heart and soul and might.
Here’s the thing. God says that we should love him, but what God really means is that we should love him back. How can a person love the Creator of the Universe? And how can anybody be commanded to love anyone or anything? Here’s how. What God really means is that we should love him back. The most fundamental, necessary article of faith is not whether God exists. As the letter of James says, even the demons believe. The most fundamental, necessary article of faith is whether you believe that the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Author of Life, the Lord of the Universe, loves you. We trust God’s word on this. “God so loved the word, that he gave his only son.” “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” “The mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.” “When Israel was a child, I loved him.” “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” As individuals, and as a people, God loves us, and commands us to love him back. What’s it like for us, to know that God loves us? We kind of know, but we don’t really, because we transfer our experience from the realm of human love, and no human being can love you as God loves us, because no human being can love you perfectly, because every person has their history and their hurts and their hang-ups, and that limits how perfectly they can love, no matter how well-intentioned they are. Did you ever read Marjorie Rawlings The Yearling? A lot of school age children did, and it was an eye opener. It introduced adolescents to the idea that if their parents did not love them completely, it was not because of a flaw in the child, but because of something in the history of the parent. Not even your parents could love you perfectly, but God can. God proved his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God loves us in a way that other human beings, even those closest to us, are not able. God loves you, and he wants you to love him back.
In our Sunday sermon, we will be looking at what it means to love God.