Keeping Jesus’ Commandment: “Love God”

Often the clearest messages from God come to me while I’m doing something mundane or routine. Such was the case at the close of last year as I was helping paint our newest grandson’s room. I was simultaneously listening to the Christianity Today podcast, Quick To Listen and moving my hands and arms in rhythmic motion from paint bucket to wall. I cannot tell you what the topic of the podcast was because I tuned out of the interview early on to focus on one comment made early on by the interviewee. Mark Galli, recently retired editor for CT, commenting on his forth coming book , shared the following:

After years of working in this world, (I) believe that evangelical Christians’ strong suit today is the love of neighbor, be it prayer gatherings to evangelism to social justice to acts of mercy. We talk about God a lot and worship him and pray to him regularly. But on the other hand, relatively few Christians take with equal seriousness the command to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. If we do talk about the love of God, it is said that we love God by loving our neighbor. (From the introduction to the Jan 2, 2020 Quick to Listen podcast)

Galli’s words resonated with me because, like many pastors, I too have emphasized our need to love our neighbor in repeated ways over the years. But have I equally, or more forcefully, emphasized our need to love God?

When Jesus responds to the question from a “lawyer”: Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.

Why do we so quickly move past this commandment for the next: Love your neighbor as yourself ? Is it because loving our neighbor is easier? Have you met your neighbor? That’s probably not the reason! Perhaps we don’t know how to show love for God?

These questions have stayed with me in the intervening days and weeks. I keep thinking about Jesus call to love God. If we truly love God – in our worship, in our mission, in our discipleship, in our coming together, in the stewardship of our time and resources – won’t that help everything else fall into place and find it’s correct priority? (including how we love our neighbor)?

What does it mean for me, for you, for the church to love God?  What does it look like for us to put that first and foremost above everything else? When people look to us – see us – refer to us – do they say, “Those people really love God?” 

My challenge in 2020 is going to be the pursuit of these questions. It will be to put our love of God first in our priorities, first in our planning, first in our conversations and discernment.  It will be to help others, but to begin with myself, in loving God with all one’s heart, soul and mind. 

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