For a long time I have been pondering what it means to love God. Contrary to some obscure what kind of “defective personality test are you” test I took randomly on Facebook (why take such things you may well ask? At least I didn’t publish it!), I am not wooden, but nor am I given to gushing emotion. I am not one to splash the “I love you” words around liberally. And so I have come to wonder about God and love. What and how do I love him? We often sing songs at church about loving God. “Jesus I am so in love with you” one song-writer croons. But are we? For me the “in love” phrase conjours up the domain of romantic lovers, exciting and passionate for sure. But this love, for all its fire and energy, lacks depth, commitment, the burnished resilience that only the gritty journey of life together can forge. It passes, is readily kindled and extinguished. I don’t love Jesus in this romantic way. However, I am not decrying intimacy with God.
I am reading Michael Frost’s book “Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post Christian Culture” at the moment. He takes an interesting meander through the old testament’s language of God and love, and while the analogy is often used of the relationship between a man and a woman, it is always unflattering. A relentlessly tragic story of unfaithfulness, the language often sordid and emotive. A sad story of God remaining faithful to a people who continue to betray. (Song of Solomon is a notable exception and probably an unecessary digression for the discussion here).
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it. Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Frost asserts that this passage “underscores the fact that for Jesus, it is impossible to love God apart from expressing that love physically and practically into the lives of our neighbours.”(p308).
Now this is something that resonates more for me, it is loving as a verb rather than some feel good sensation in my heart, stomach or whatever is the culturally acceptable seat of emotions.
Frost goes on to list nine different ways we can “love God”, beginning with a piercing quote from Rowland Croucher – “You love God just as much, and no more, than the person you love least.” Here are the nine headings:
Love God by loving others
Love God by obeying Jesus
Love God by lingering in God’s company
Love God by speaking about the things of God
Love God by longing for the return of Christ
Love God by forsaking all other gods and idols
Love God by laying down our life
Love God by loving what he has created.
Love God by forgiving others.
I think Frost is onto something here. There is much to unpack in nine sentences that holds a light to the ways in which I love God, and the ways in which I fail to.
So then, of what shall we sing?