Loving God

The First and Great Commandment, Jesus tells us, is to ``love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.'' What does it mean to love God? Should we get the warm fuzzies every time we think of God, the way we do when we think of loving a girl friend or Prince Charming? Hardly.

``Love'' in the Bible, both when God loves humans, and when we humans are told to love God, is not about feelings and emotions at all. It's about self-sacrifice. It's not a Feeler relational thing, the way the modern English word ``love'' is, it's a Thinker goal-oriented thing.

Did God get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about us ``while we were yet sinners''? No way! Was His reaction to us relational? Not at all! God expressed His divine love for us by rejecting His only ``beloved'' (that one is warm fuzzy, if anything is) son, by having his son killed for us. In other words, this love is the very opposite of what we think of the relational stuff we call love.

And that self-sacrificing, relationship-rejecting love is what God commands us in the First Great Commandment.

``If any person would be my disciple,'' Jesus said, ``let them deny themselves...'' If you love father or mother or wife or children more than God, you cannot be Christian. That's ugly. It's not Feeler. But it's in the Bible. Jesus himself said it. That's the kind of love God demands of every one of us, Christian or not. Don't make excuses. Don't try to explain it away. That's a modern Feeler thing. This is a Thinker command. It's very hard.

Do you want to understand what the First Great Commandment really means? Read the explanation in the book of Job. Job was a rich man, blessed by God with a big family and vast holdings and many servants. Everything he did was pleasing to God. God said so, don't try to deny it.

Satan happened to be among those at some party God gave, and God accosted him. ``What have you been up to?'' God asked him. The words in your Bible are a little stilted. I think if he were saying it in English, it would look like this.

``Oh, nothing,'' he replied. ``Just out and around. Nowhere in particular.''

``Have you checked out my servant Job, who gets everything right?''

``Small wonder,'' Satan retorted. ``Look at all the goodies you pile on him. Take it away, and he'll curse you to your face.''

``It's a bet!'' said God. ``Only don't mess with his person.''

In one day, Job lost everything, all his wealth, all ten children dead in the same day, all the servants -- except for four bedraggled messengers who separately came to report the losses. Even his wife turned on him.

And just as Satan predicted, Job cursed God --

Not in my Bible.

``The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Praise God.''

Job loved God even when he did not get the benefits. That's the First and Great Commandment.

The next time he was in the area, God hit up on Satan again. ``What have you been up to?''

``Oh, nothing,'' Satan replied. ``Just out and around. Nowhere in particular.''

``Have you checked out my servant Job, who gets everything right -- even though you took everything away?''

``Skin for skin,'' Satan replied. Don't you just love his turn of the phrase? ``Touch his body, and you'll see!'' You know the story. It was horrible.

Job never cracked.

He did start to wonder if God was paying attention. Haven't you felt that way? The heavens are brass, and my prayers are not getting through. God answered that one objection, and He stomped all over it. ``Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?'' On and on for four chapters, God knows stuff we can't even imagine. What makes you think God isn't paying attention? God knows how many hairs are on your head -- right this minute, after three came off in your hand, and before you combed another five out. He also knows about the seven tiny hairs just starting to poke out from the skin this morning, and the 86 split ends in back. No, God knew very well what was happening to Job.

But Job did not curse God. Job was more righteous than those ``friends'' who didn't understand. God told them to ask Job to pray for them, because God would listen to Job's prayers, and not to their own.

You see, Job loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, as the Command requires. Pretty close, anyway. Much better than most people. That was the whole point of the bet, and God won the bet.

This is the kind of love God shows us, that even when we were unlovable, God sacrificed himself on our behalf. And this is the kind of love God commands from us, that even when Bad Things Happen, we still owe Him all our worship and homage, because He is God and we are not god. It's not a warm fuzzy feeling -- the warm fuzzies might happen, and you might get goose bumps all over thinking awesome thoughts about God, but that's not love -- true love, Jesus tells us, is obeying God's commandments. Yes, that's a Thinker thing. Feelers want to be told how much you love them. Thinkers -- including God -- want to see it in your actions.

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Rev. 2012 July 3