The Truth About Loving Our God

 
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The truth is, we love God in spite of ourselves. That does not mean we are incapable of love. All people love someone or something. But regardless of who or what we love, we are called by Selfless Jesus to go further. Selfless, Loving Jesus invites us to make the radical claim that we love God and neighbor "because He first loved us.” But, to love as God wants us to love is so difficult.

Since man and woman rebelled against God in the garden, love for God and neighbor does not come naturally for us. And, even when we do muster up the enthusiasm to love God, it is a love that measures, limits, and brings God to heel by way of comparison to other gods and ideas and people whom we admire and worship and envy. That is why the force of our love is violent. It is love acted out as, "I will love you in a way that’s best for me, and you’ll like it, and celebrate it, and reward me for it." We love God so long as it is in a Sunday morning, Bible Study way. We love God so long as it is in a Sunday School or Confirmation way. We love God so long as it is safe for us to love God. We love Selfless Jesus so long as He is kept safely in the pages of a book, or in a pulpit, or at the edges of the universe.

And for sure, we can put on a false show of devotion with our words and actions. We can declare for all to hear that we love God. But feelings are feelings, and we cannot hide from ourselves (or from our very real, very present, in our face, is not going anywhere God). Our love has an expiration date. Our heart is as untamable as a wild monkey. No matter how much effort we dedicate to putting on a false-front for family and friends when our love dampens or falls dead, there is a gravity to it that drags us down into bitterness. Bitterness drags us further down into resentment. And, resentment drags us all the way down until we strike pay dirt: the cold, cold ground of cynicism and loathing.

The gravity of a heart gone cold can even turn us away from faith and hope in Selfless, Savior Jesus. How often do we beg God to take crosses off us before we give up altogether? How often do we pray from the edge of an abyss of hopelessness? How often do we wonder if Selfless, Savior Jesus will rescue us from struggles and afflictions? How often do we think, "Does He even want to rescue me? Maybe I brought this on myself? My God, what have I done to deserve this?"

But, those feelings of abandonment are our own. As St. Paul writes, "the love of God in Jesus Christ never ends.” So then, what is our problem with love? Why can't we love God and our neighbor selflessly? Why can't we give without limits? Why can't we hold up under the pressure of selfless adoration and love for others? The answer is simple; it is just not easy for us to swallow. We are sinners, selfish, self-centered, team “Me-First.” That means, outside Selfless, Loving, Savior Jesus we are left to wonder where God is and what He's up to.

But, when we are with Selfless, Savior Jesus, in the hearing of His promises and the receiving of His gifts, we can even receive our crosses as gift because they mean that our selfishness and me-first attitude is being put to death along with all our self-loving, self-worshipping, ‘satisfy my needs’ way of living.

The force of our love is violent. It is love acted out as, “I will love you in a way that’s best for me, and you’ll like it, and celebrate it, and reward me for it.”
— Donavon Riley

We do not love rightly, not this side of the resurrection. We love selfishly, falsely, fearfully, and insecurely. That is our fate as sinners. But we have a Self-giving Savior who shed His blood on the cursed tree for us, even though we reject His offer of life, love, and salvation. That is how God reveals Himself to be God for us, even in the midst of our struggles and afflictions, even when our love goes cold. That is His limitless, measureless, unconditional, indiscriminate love that holds us up even when crosses drive us to our knees in prayer.

For this reason then, when we talk about love, we do not talk about ourselves, or how strong our relationships are, or our successes and failures at love. Especially, we do not talk about how much we love God and how much better we are getting at loving Him the way He loves us. Instead, we talk of Selfless, Loving Jesus and His love which never exhausts itself.

Jesus' love never runs cold, and so He warms our cold, cold heart. Jesus' love never loses hope, and so His Spirit breathes new life into our hopelessness. Jesus' love never gives up pursuing us, and so He gathers us back to Himself everytime we run away in fear because He is our Selfless, Self-giving, Savior, Loving Jesus. He did not come to be loved and adored, but to love us. And for this reason, because He loves us without limit or measure, we are free to love God and each other Jesus-much.  

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Content Manager for Higher Things, contributing writer for 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. He is also the co-host of The Banned Books podcast and the As Lutheran As It Gets podcast.



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