It’s funny how we quibble over small things and scarcely give thought to huge things. We fuss about the style and color of ladder we will use to pick the fruit but forget about tending the trees.
Take loving God for example. According to Moses, citing the Eternal One, loving God is the one thing most necessary. Just as there is but one God, so there is but one response appropriate to this God — loving God with our all. What could be clearer? In fact, worship and many other gatherings for Israel began with a call to hear again the one thing most important: “Love the Lord your God with all…”
Yet, most of the time, God’s people tended to focus, obsess, argue and debate things of lesser significance. These things probably would come as delicious, beautiful and healing fruit if only God’s people tended the tree of loving God first and fully.
It’s the same in the New Testament record. Every gospel writer tells of Jesus’ primary teaching on loving God. Absolutely nothing ranks higher, not even loving neighbor. Jesus says loving others, even enemies, is similar to the greatest command, but the greatest remains loving God. Nearly all the apostolic writers — Paul, Peter, John, James — specifically recall and repeat this greatest command.
And yet, followers of Messiah Jesus also become distracted. They wonder about who is the greatest, who will get the best seats at the wedding feast, whose convictions are most true to Jesus, what things are permissible and what are not for serious disciples. They wonder about food, drink, special days and all sorts of other things that would look like fruit in the basket if they took care of the tree.
I think it’s the same today — at least it can be. So, here are a few counsels for people who, like me, qualify as dummies from time to time when it comes to loving God.
1. There’s nothing more important than loving God. Make that your primary goal, come what may. Seek until loving God happens. (And you will know!)
2. God is a real person — in some sense, more real than other people in your life. So loving God fully, even madly, has a lot in common with loving any other person. Think about it.
3. (a) Don’t sweat the fact that you can’t see God. In reality you can’t see most of what makes you love the other people you love (the ones you know you love). Think about it. (b) As a matter of fact, you love yourself (you know you do!), and you can’t see most of what makes you you. Sometimes you are surprised to learn things about yourself. If you love yourself, though you can’t see much of what makes you the person you are, why can’t you love an unseen God? Answer: You can!
4. Actually, you can see God clearly and compellingly. God gave you the best self-portrait ever when God gave you Jesus. You can see Jesus — see Him in action, hear what He says, watch how He responds to others and circumstances, feel the impact He has on people, some of whom are a lot like you. Look at Jesus. See, hear, feel and touch God. This is the God you can and will want to love.
5. Loving God, like anyone else, can’t be forced. That is not how love works. So relax and receive. Receive this God’s attention, affection and acts on your behalf. He stoops to wash your dirty feet, even though much of the dirt comes from paths you were never meant to walk. He wants to make clear His undying love for you, even if, in the end, you say no. He does this by actually dying for you. Not when you were at your best, but at your worst. In fact, Jesus showed His love for you before there was a you and did it knowing fully all the worst features you might come to possess.
6. Loving God who shows up in Jesus is what you do in response to the huge favor God has shown in Jesus living, dying and rising up from death. It’s what comes — what rises up within you — when it dawns on you all that God has done in Jesus.
7. Loving God is your yes to this picture God gives of who God is and what God cares about, has already done and promises to do with, for and through you. So say yes! Keep saying yes. See what happens, what fruits grow. Among them will be
BISHOP DAVID KENDALL, an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference, was first elected to the office of bishop of the Free Methodist Church in 2005. He is the author of “God’s Call to be Like Jesus,” which can be purchased at fmchr.ch/dkcall.2