“There is one and only one possible road to joy: selfless love.” – Peter Kreeft
Our God desires from each of us a covenant love toward Himself that is relentless in the pursuit of intimacy and communion, unfailing in its focus upon Him daily. A love that never fails.
Some might think that this is a selfish desire on our God’s part. Yes, it is, but it is also most appropriate and fitting, for He is the only one in existence who is worthy of such love. And as His creatures made to love Him, we cannot ever achieve the fulfillment for which we were created if we do not love Him so. In that sense, our God’s desire for our love is actually selfless in that it is the only pathway on which we will ever find our highest fulfillment and satisfaction.
How do we respond to our God’s covenant love for us? In the previous post we read, “For I delight in loyalty – covenant love in return for my covenant love for you – rather than sacrifice – religious observance; and in the knowledge of God – a deep and intimate friendship – more than religious observances.” Our only appropriate response is nothing less than a love that never fails.
To lay aside our self-interests to pursue our God is a life-long battle for us. Whatever is selfish cannot love, and cannot really comprehend true love. Our God knows this, and He has provided a way for us to love Him as we should.
Here is important news for us: we are not capable of this love for our God on our own. You cannot love your God or anyone else with this covenant love, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Listen to how Paul talks about this in Romans 5:3-5 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Our ability to love our God with this great covenant love is completely dependent upon the work of God the Holy Spirit in us. We in our humanness do not have that capacity. It is a work of our God, by His grace and His love for us, that He puts this love for Himself within us. Only by this work of His Holy Spirit can we begin to realize the fulness of our calling in Him.
“Only God can give us a selfless love for others, as the Holy Spirit changes us from within. This is one reason we must receive Christ, for apart from His Spirit we can never be freed from the chains of selfishness, jealousy, and indifference.” – Billy Graham
Yet even with the work of the Holy Spirit as the source and supply of the love we need, many who see themselves as followers of our God never realize this love for Him. This is because the Holy Spirit will normally not overrule our selfish inclinations and perspectives. Remember from a previous post that the opposite of love is not hate, but self. That preoccupation with self leads to indifference, also antithetical to true love.
We are a selfish people by our fallen nature. We live in a self-oriented, self-focused society. This ubiquitous self-focus in every area of living is hard to escape. Many who claim to be Christ-followers are still living religious lives from a mostly self-serving perspective. It is hard to escape the self-focus, and the result is that we are in many ways indifferent towards our God and others. We say the right religious words and phrases, but the focus and fruit of our living is predominately self-focused and self-serving.
The kind of love we need to truly love our God in a manner in which He is worthy of being love won’t become a reality in us until we plead with our God to crucify us to all that is selfish in us. Those who would love God and others with a Great Commandment love must seek the crucified life. Whatever is selfish cannot love, and cannot really comprehend true love. We must pursue our God and not self-interest if we are to love Him and others.
“What is ‘grace’? It is God’s own life, shared by us. God’s life is love. Deus caritas est. By grace we are able to share in the infinitely selfless love of Him Who is such pure actuality that He needs nothing and therefore cannot conceivably exploit anything for selfish ends. Indeed, outside of Him there is nothing, and whatever exists exists by His free gift of its being, so that one of the notions that is absolutely contradictory to the perfection of God is selfishness.” – Thomas Merton