spiritual journey
Loving God: 101

What would be your first response if someone asked, "Do you love God?" Think about your answer for a moment.

You may say a quick "Yes!" You may be unsure whether or not God exists. You may struggle with sounding harsh by saying "no" to that question. You may wonder, How in the world do you love someone you canít see or touch?

No matter how we feel about talking about God, the fact remains that God has instructed his human creatures to love him. In Deuteronomy 6:5 God declared, "And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength." Many years later, when Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, he simply quoted this verse from the Old Testament, adding that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves too (see Mark 12:28-34).

Before we can explore what it means to love God, the commandment raises a preliminary issue: Does God need our love? Would God be lacking something if we didnít love him? The answer is no. God doesnít need our love. He is complete in himself. As a Trinity (three persons in one), God experiences perfect love within himself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share absolute harmony within the divine fellowship.

So why did God command us to love him? Because this is what we were designed to do. We were created to love God. Part of the dissatisfaction we feel about life will remain constant as long as we are in rebellion against God. But as we practice the wonderful variety of ways we can express love for God, we experience a sense of completeness and harmony with Godís purposes.

What does it mean to love God? Part of the answer involves our realization that God loves us, and knowing the deep satisfaction that truth brings. The answer becomes clearer as we experience a growing desire to spend time with God, responding to his love with worship and praise. We can do this alone, but find that joining others in worship and praise to God can have a powerful effect on our awareness of his presence and love. Another part of the answer comes when we realize that though we canít see or touch God, we can see and touch and serve other people. We love God back by loving others he loves, particularly fellow Christians. Hereís how the apostle John put the issue:

"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, "I love God," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we donít love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters." (1 John 4:16-21)

Learning to love God is a lifetime process that starts with an acknowledgment of his love for us and grows as we learn to serve and love our neighbor.