Yesterday we continued our study of God at Hope with "God is Love." The main text is here. I admit, once again, the message given is not the message heard. While I took "his" notes, I was also making my own notes. This post is my notes.
I always think of the phrase "God is love" whenever I hear we are going to the letters from John. But what is love? Obviously God's heart is not an flimsy as our own. Can His love be as fickle as mine? Of course not! My favorite quote about His love is this: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. He could have let us die in our sin. He could have abandoned us to our own evil. He could have backed down as He listened to Jesus plead with Him to find another way, as He watched Jesus suffer, as He heard the cries of His Son dying. Can I even fathom loving like this? Not really. I get cantankerous when my husband doesn't answer me soon enough or the central air goes out or I feel dumped on by work. I can't get through those mild irritations and remain loving. God has loved me through a whole lot more than that!
So what does it mean to love God?
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. 1 John 5:2-3a NIV
That seems straightforward enough, right? But...which commands? The 10 commandments? I thought we were saved by grace, not by works-wouldn't this dissolve into a works based, conditional love then?
Jesus told us himself: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40 NIV
I also think James gave us a concrete way to carry this command out: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress James 1:27 NIV. If I am saying I love God, I need to measure my actions: Do I care for the orphaned, the widows, the disenfranchised, the least of these? Or do I go about my merry way, giving less than 10% to my local church, thinking about giving more to a program to care for orphans but forgetting my checkbook, avoiding eye contact with a homeless woman on a chance encounter?
Just because I am called to do does not make it a "works based religion." My heart has been changed, softened, more aware, but not through any actions of my own. Through Ezekiel, God says, " I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws...you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness (Ezekiel 36:26)
All love, mine, your or His, begins with Him. Any love my heart can muster is a gift from Him to be shared.