DO YOU REALLY LOVE GOD?
By DANNY MINTON
One evening I was studying for my Bible class when I came across a story told by C. W. Bradley. As I read the story, the question popped into my mind, “Do I really love God?” That may sound like an odd question to ask a minister, then again, maybe it’s something we should all consider in our Christian walk. Let me ask you, “Do you really love God?”
Bradley’s story begins with a young lady who purchased a book and began reading it. In a short time, in disgust, she threw the book aside, saying, “This is the most uninteresting book I’ve ever read.” A few months later she fell in love with a young man, they dated and were finally engaged. He was a writer and one night as they were talking, he casually mentioned the name of the first book he wrote. It happened to be the very one she had tossed aside. That evening, when she returned home, she rushed to the attic and fumbled through several boxes until she found the book. In the early morning hours, as she finished the final page, she made the comment to herself, “This is the most interesting book I have ever read!” So what happened to change her viewpoint? The answer is simple, she was in love with the author.
When asked about the greatest commandment, in response, Jesus gave two answers to the inquisitor. The first was to “love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” Jesus then quickly adds that a second commandment is coupled with this one, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He then points out that everything hinges on the single concept of love for God and man.
So now to the question, “Do you really love God?” “Do you think that we as men and women of faith love God? Before you answer, give it some thought. I did as I was studying for this lesson. How much we love God hinges heavily on how we love one another. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know you are one of my disciples if you love one another.” God is the author. When we love the author, we look at his work with different eyes. To love God is to love those he has created.
Our leaders often do a good job teaching us to love one another. So, our first response is probably, “Yes, I really do love God!” We are taught to take meals to the sick. We are encouraged to visit the hospitals. We teach people to visit shut-ins. The list can go on, but these are just acts of kindness. Paul wrote that if we speak in tongues of men or angels if we have great faith or give all we possess to the poor, they are just empty acts if we don’t have love.
When people are talked about behind their backs, is that love? When people criticize what others are doing or not doing, is that love? When we are envious of other’s successes, is that love? When we allow ministers to be criticized without stepping in, is that love? When we allow our church leaders to be complained about over decisions, is that love? Do we hold grudges or ill will? Do we look for faults? Do we allow things like this? Do we do it ourselves? If so, that’s not love. In the case where we do this, we are actually telling God we don’t love Him. As John wrote, “whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love.” He adds, “whoever does not love their brother or sister who they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
When we truly love the Author, we will change the way we look at each other. Realizing that God showed his love by giving his son, nothing stood in the way of God’s love for people, even when they were in the midst of sin. In the same way, if we teach people to love God, we must first teach them to love each other. When you love someone, the faults and blemishes may not vanish but will become unnoticeable or diminished, because love covers them up.
A church that becomes known as a bickering congregation or one that is full of turmoil is telling the world it is only “clanging gongs and banging cymbals.” If someone walks into a meeting of people who profess to love God, they should feel the love in the room. If someone walks into a church office, they should feel the love in the room. When someone walks through the foyer or into a class, they should feel the love in the air. When someone hears the conversations of members in the foyer, over a meal, at school or at their office, they should feel the love.
In short, the place to start loving God is teaching everyone to love each other in word and deed in all the places in his or her life. As we fulfill the second commandment, we will, at the same time, be fulfilling the first. Fulfilling the greatest commandment can only be done in reverse order.
Now, again the question, “Do you really love God?” The question cannot be answered by anyone with words. It can only be answered by loving one another, the Jesus way.
”Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12 (NIV)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.