One of the basic truths of the universe is that God is loving. In fact, the Bible even goes so far as to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God demonstrates His love for us in many ways. But His supreme act of love was giving His Son, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, to deal with human sin (Rom. 5:8).
Imitating God’s love
So God is love. But it is not as if we are supposed to just stand at a distance admiring that. In Eph. 5:1 the apostle Paul writes, “Be imitators of God.” What Paul means is that we are to imitate His moral qualities including His love.
The most important commandment
The importance of love is also shown by what Jesus says in Mark 12:28-34. In this passage we read about an occasion when He was asked what the most important commandment in the law of Moses was.
Quoting Deut. 6:5, He replied:
“You must Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Given how God is love and how He wants us to imitate His moral qualities, it isn’t a surprise that Jesus would give this as the greatest commandment.
Today, Christians are not under obligation to follow the law of Moses. Instead, we are under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).
However, the law of Christ is a fulfillment of the law of Moses. It is a kind of outgrowth from that law and has a lot in common with it.
Even though the command that Jesus quoted is part of the law of Moses, there is no doubt that the law of Christ overlaps with the law of Moses as far as this command is concerned. As people who are under the law of Christ, then, we must set ourselves the goal of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Using our wills
It is important to understand that the command to love God is not a command to try to manufacture some sort of emotional feeling within ourselves. We should never try to create emotions. Instead, loving God is first and foremost about using our wills. We choose to do what pleases Him to the best of our ability.
Of course, we will never succeed in loving Him with all our heart this side of death. But the command to love Him in this way is similar to the one in Matt. 5:48, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God commands us to be perfect, not because we will manage to do that before we die, but because it is a goal we must strive towards.
There are many passages in the Bible which make it clear that the normal Christian life is a radical thing (e.g., Matt. 16:24-25; 18:8-9; John 12:25). It is an extreme thing, not in an uncontrolled or unreasonable way, but in how we are to love God. We are to give our lives for His service. We are to be people who have one supreme, overarching goal, which is to do His will.
To love God in this way doesn’t mean that life should become a misery. It is not as if we let God rule over our lives, and then He only asks us to do things we don’t want to do. The will of God for us is bound to be a mixture of things we want and don’t want to do. But the key thing is to submit to Him and let Him rule over all our actions.
Knowing the will of God
Of course, even after we have set ourselves to do the will of God, it is still often difficult to know exactly what His will is. But if we seek Him seriously about this, we will make good progress towards knowing His will for our lives.
In practical terms, the most important way for us to learn what He wants us to do is by becoming serious students of the Bible. Every Christian should make it a practice to regularly study and meditate on Scripture.
Also, as we seek God in prayer, we will become more able to hear the voice of His Spirit directing our lives.
See also my articles:
The Importance of Taking Steps to Avoid Temptation