‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.”– Luke 11:42-46
Jesus accused the Pharisees of forgetting, neglecting two things: justice and the love of God. In other words, of violating the two greatest commandments (love God and love your neighbor). Leaving aside the HUGE topic of justice for the moment, the phrase “the love of God” was arresting to me as I heard it today. What struck me about this was that the phrase “the love of God” can be read in two directions- the love we have for God and the love God has for us and by extension the love God has for others.
There’s been a lot written about the love of God for us in recent years. We are slowly recovering our identity as “the Beloved.” This is important work- until we see how much God values us, loves us, has sacrificed for us, we will never truly understand, accept and be able to then live out the Gospel. We will forever be stuck in the mode of “I am accepted because/when/if I obey” and never reach “I obey out of gratitude because I am accepted.”
This will then necessarily hinder us in our understanding for God’s love of others. How could I possibly see God’s love for sinners if I believe God’s love for me is dependent on my own righteousness and not the righteousness of Christ and my inherent nature as His creation?
And so not to diminish the important work of living in our “belovedness,” I felt the call today to focus instead on, or maybe in addition to, the other other direction- my love for God.“We love Him because He first loved us” remains incomplete when we focus on the love of God for us without letting it move us into love for Him, worship of Him, gratitude for Him.
I think I have a ways to go in growing in my love for God- my emotional connection to and cherishing of the God who gave up everything, who suffered great pain and endured the cross for my sake. My heart often remains stuck in worship- stuck in “Oh how He loves you and me!” and only rarely flows into “Oh how I love HIM.”
I desperately desire not to forget the love of God for me. I equally desire not to forget to stoke the fire of love for Him in my heart.
God, as I come to worship each day, as I arrive at worship each Sunday with my community, may I know and feel your love for me deeply, and may I respond in kind, with open-hearted, full-willed love for You. May I truly love You with all my heart, soul and strength.