• How are we to love God?

    Q:

    Mt 22:37-39 tells us to love God and love our neighbors. We are told who our neighbors are and how we are to love them. However, how are we to love God? What does that entail and what are our obligations?

    A:

    Wow, this one really made me think. Thank you for your question! I think you hit at something really important here. When we read Matthew 22, or Luke 10, all of the focus seems to be on asking, in the words of the lawyer, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk10:29). Jesus himself then takes it a step further, talking about how we can “be” a neighbor, using the parable of the Good Samaritan as an illustration. But yes, what does it mean to love God?

    First, I would state the obvious: that to love your neighbor is to love God. Indeed, to love any of God’s creatures, any piece of God’s creation, is to love the creator. When we care for animals, when we care for the Earth, when we care for one another, we are showing love toward the One who made all and is in all.

    Beyond love and charity toward our neighbors and all God’s creation, I think the principle way we should show love toward God is in our worship. Singing and speaking, bowing and kneeling, are all ways to love our God. Now, that may not exclusively mean worship on Sunday morning. To be sure, many of us have many different ways of showing our love of God and spending time in worship. Reading Scripture and meditating on God’s promises for us is a way to love God. So is silent or spoken prayer, spending time with the One who holds us and protects us.

    Finally, when it comes to love of God, I think it is important to focus on action rather than feelings. When I do premarital counseling with couples I always point out what the marital vows promise and what they do not promise. The vows don’t promise that the couple will always be happy – that they’ll love each other more and more each day. We can’t promise that; feelings are passive, not something we can necessarily control. But what we can control are actions. I encourage couples to live into their marital vows – the actions of honoring, caring for, supporting, helping, and being faithful to their spouse. Likewise, with our love of God, we can’t make ourselves feel head over heals in love with God. But we can worship, and pray, and read Scripture. We can do these tangible things that express a love that cannot help but grow through this work and expression. And through all of this love of God, it is inevitable that our love of neighbor will grow more and more as well.

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