This is love for God: to obey his commands. 1 John 5:3
I confess that, after I became a Christian, it took me a while to figure out how to go about loving God. Eternal and humble gratitude for His grace that changed my life forever? Absolutely. But love for the great I AM? A tad more challenging for a mere mortal like moi.
The dictionary defines love in very human terms as “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend”. Hardly a sufficient response toward the creator of the universe.
As humans, we use the word “love” to describe an emotion or a feeling; in the Bible (and in this verse in particular), the word love is more of an active state of being. Author and pastor, James M. Boice, said: “Christians frequently attempt to turn love for God into a mushy emotional experience, but John does not allow this in his epistle.”
In his own Gospel, John also reported Jesus as saying, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)
So love for God seems within my ability, ’cause obeying God’s commands is something I can do, right? Right…?
Too easy – there must be a catch. Let’s think about this.
Matthew reported Jesus as saying that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)
Hmmm… Let’s perform a little logic equation, shall we? To love God I have to obey His commands, one of which is to love Him with every fiber of my being, 24 hours a day; ergo, if I fail to do that for even one moment then I’m not obeying His commands and, thus and therefore, aren’t loving Him as He directed.
As Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.” Under my own power – even as determined and dedicated and well-meaning as I am – it’s impossible. I could never do enough to love God like He requires, being the fallen, sinful human that I am. The first time I speed up on the interstate to keep someone from merging in front of me or roll my eyes at the check-out counter in total annoyance because the shopper in front of me waits until all his or her groceries are checked and bagged before rummaging around for a checkbook, then I’ve broken Jesus’s commandment that we love one another and thrown a wrench into my fellowship with God. (And acted like a total jerk in the process.)
But as a Christian, I’m not operating under my own power, right? (Of course, right.) When Jesus became Lord and Savior of my life, I also gained access to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit; and one of the first “fruits” of the Spirit listed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians is love. (Gal. 5:22)
So when Paul said in his letter to the Christians at Philippi, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Php. 4:13), he meant everything; even something seemingly impossible, like loving the creator of the universe – the great I AM – with all my heart, soul, and mind (and strength, added Luke).
Are there days when I fail? To quote Crush, the turtle from Disney*Pixar’s Finding Nemo: “D-u-u-u-de… totally.” (Reference my all-too-frequent interstate and check-out line failings noted above.) Does the Holy Spirit let me know in real time that I’m headed down the wrong path? Again, “D-u-u-u-de… totally.”
Which is great, actually. I sometimes think we’re all like the puppy who uses the bathroom on the rug – it’s convenient and doesn’t feel all that bad and if you don’t correct him immediately it will probably be too late later. After a while, he’s become indifferent to the mess he’s making and doesn’t see any need to stop.
Kind of like us Christians when we commit the same sins over and over…
So I also need to respond in real time to the conviction of the Holy Spirit; otherwise, those wrenches I’m throwing into my fellowship with God start to pile up. One may not seem to be a big deal, but after several socket sets worth start to litter the floor it becomes harder to walk without stumbling. And before you know it, I’m neither obeying God nor loving Him.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for the Holy Spirit and His moment-by-moment presence in my heart. Don’t ever let me become indifferent to the sin in my life. Provide the conviction and the encouragement to obey your commands and maintain the fellowship with you that can only be had when my heart is clean. And in the process, help me grow to love you more every day.”
So is fellowship with God really that sweet?