And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…”
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Love God with your whole being. That, briefly stated, is the greatest commandment. Further, the New Testament likens our relationship with God to a great romance which will culminate in a great wedding: the marriage of Christ (“the Lamb”) to God’s people. That future marriage is not about a physical/sexual union, but rather about a deep spiritual union.
Consider that God has made romance and marriage partly for this purpose: A deep romance and marriage between a man and a woman is a shadow of the deep intimate relationship that God wants with his people.
Just as it is usually the groom-to-be that initiates the relationship with the bride-to-be, so it is that God has initiated a love relationship with us. Our response to God’s love for us should be love for God:
We love because he first loved us. (1John 4:19)
Further, God has shown us his passionate love for us through Christ:
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
God showed his love for us by sending Christ to die for us, so our sins could be forgiven, so we would not be condemned. It is natural that the forgiveness we receive from God leads us to deeply love God.
Consider the woman “who was a sinner” and who came to Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, and anointed his feet with ointment (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus indicated that this woman had great love for him specifically because she knew that her many sins had been forgiven.
The same should be true of all who follow Jesus: We all had a great debt of sin which we could not pay. Through Jesus’ death on a cross, the huge debt we owed has been paid in full, through no effort of our own! Deep, passionate love for God should be our natural response.
A failure to love God deeply is likely related to a failure to understand the depth of your own sin, or a failure to receive God’s forgiveness (by not turning to God in repentance and having faith in Jesus; see chapter 16 “What Must I Do to be Saved?”).
How do we know whether or not we really love God?
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. (1John 5:3)
These verses indicate that true love for God results in obedience to God. Just as two romantic lovers try to please each other, so our love for God results in our trying to please God. We try to do things his way, rather than just trying to please ourselves or other people.
But let’s be careful here. The above verses are not calling us to try to prove our love for God by trying our best to obey God. Rather, they are indicating that if we truly love God then obedience will be the natural result. As Jesus himself taught:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:23-24)
Let’s be even more careful here. Romans 7 appears to show the possibility of being in bondage to sin after salvation, especially if we try to live by law rather than by the Spirit. However, it is clear that the freedom discussed in Romans 8 should be the norm for followers of Jesus, not the bondage of Romans 7. We must be careful to not accept sin as a normal part of a life of faith. Deliberate ongoing sin in a person’s life brings that person’s very salvation into question (Hebrews 10:26-27).
But some will think: “How burdensome it is to try to obey God!”
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. (1John 5:3-4)
May I suggest that, if your relationship with God is what it should be, obedience to God is not burdensome. Obeying God should only seem burdensome if you haven’t truly been “born of God,” or if your relationship with God isn’t based on love for God. I would suggest that, for true lovers of God, disobedience to God is burdensome, not obedience (read about Paul’s burden of disobedience in Romans 7).
Also, our love for God should grow deeper as we know him better. This may take some time, just as the love of human romantic relationships should grow deeper with time. An increasing desire to obey God is evidence of an increasing love for God.
What about you? Is there evidence of love for God in your life? Do you desire to obey God? Do you obey God? Is your love for God increasing?
For Further Reflection
Luke 7:36-50: The woman who had lived a sinful life.
1John 2:1-6: We know that we have come to know him…
1John 2:15-17: Do not love the world.
1John 4:20-21: Claiming love for God while hating others.
Revelation 2:1-7: A failure to love God at Ephesus.
Isaiah 62:4-5: God rejoices like a bridegroom.
Jeremiah 2:1 to 3:25: Israel’s unfaithfulness toward God likened to adultery and prostitution.
Revelation 21:9-27: The bride, the wife of the Lamb.
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