“Let it never be said that we cannot know whether a Christian really loves Christ. It can be known. It can be discovered. The proof can be seen. You have heard them this very day. Love to the Lord Jesus Christ is no hidden, secret, unseen thing. It is like the light – it will be seen. It is like sound – it will be heard. It is like heat – it will be felt. Where it exists, it cannot be hidden. Where it cannot be seen, you can be sure there is none.” ― J.C. Ryle, “Holiness”
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
The greatest pursuit in this life is to love your God. Not simply to have good, positive feelings about Him. Not only to maintain fidelity and solidarity with His “cause” in the world. Not just being religiously busy to show how committed you are to His purposes.
The call of God upon all of us is this – to love your God more than you love anyone or anything in this life, by a large margin. The call is more like a claim upon our lives and our priorities. And the call is harsh, the claim exacting. Jesus declared it to be so, despite all the efforts of religious teachers to soften the edges of it, to make it easier to connect with for our self-focused thinking.
“The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.” – Matthew 10:37-39
We are all a bit narcissistic or worse, all a kind of holdover from Adam’s original rebellion. Our society and the enemy of our souls is always goading us into even more narcissistic endeavors. A cursory examination of most of the inputs and outputs in our lives will confirm that self is the biggest issue for us.
Too bad, too. Self is the polar opposite of love, which makes the Greatest Commandment of Jesus (above) kind of a pipe dream for most Christians. Some say indifference is the opposite of love, but all indifference toward others is rooted in our preoccupation with all things of the self-life. So few self (there’s that word) proclaimed Christians are no less selfish than the world around them, no more in love with their God than the same.
How does a person who is self-oriented and indifferent come to love anyone more than they love themselves. A bigger issue still is this: how does such a person come to love their God in keeping with the standard given by Jesus in Matthew 10?
Such love cannot come from us. It can only come from our God, who is the only source of such a love. How will we tap into that love from the Father?
Pray for it. Daily, earnestly, and with tears if need be. Pray for your God to reveal your selfishness in the light of His love. He will answer that prayer gently but clearly. Pray for His love to be poured out in you by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This is the only way such love will come to you. Repent of all selfishness as soon as it is revealed. Repentance is always the start of good things. Speak your way into love. Every day, as often as you are prompted by the Spirit, tell your God that you love Him. He is waiting to move in those who will turn to Him in love, even if their love is that of beginners.
He will take it from there.
“Let go into His arms until you find yourself obsessed with things divine” – John Crowder, “The Ecstasy of Loving God”
Image via author, Ice Lake, Wallowas, Oregon.