When we need advice on important questions in life, we come to wise men.
If I want to know to know how to do something related to the church, I’m most likely to pick up the phone and call Bp. Grote (REC). If you wanted to know to invest your money more wisely, you’d call a financial planner.
But what if you had the opportunity to go to the wisest man who ever lived and ask Him the most important question ever asked? Listen closely: The wisest man who ever lived is telling the secret of life: your all wise God is telling you what He desires from you more than anything else.
So what is it that God wants from you more than anything else? If we believe the Bible, in this case the very words of Jesus Christ, the most important thing God has commanded us to do is to love Him. Love is the fulfillment of the Law, and love is to define our entire relationship with God. This is the “What?” question of our lives. “What is the most important thing I can do?” Answer: Love God. It’s pretty simple, isn’t it?
Husbands and wives; parents and children: if I were to ask you what is the greatest thing you could do for each other, what would it be? Though we might all give different answers, down deep we all know and agree upon one answer: the greatest thing we can do for another human, is to love him.
If the greatest thing we can do for one another is to love, then how much more true is it that the greatest thing we can do for God, is to love Him? Do you love God as you love the dearest, most cherished person in your life? If not, then I say that you have something to learn about loving God.
Now you might say: “I know how to love my wife or I know how to love my kids. They’re like me: they’re humans, and I can see them. But how do I love God?”
After we have heard and accepted the answer to the “What?” question – that
loving God is the greatest commandment – we’d better know as well the answer to the “How?” question: “How do I love God?” To this question, Jesus has given 2 answers: Love God for Himself; love God by loving people.
I believe that if we truly . . .deliberately . . . and passionately seek to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds, and seek to love our neighbors as ourselves, that not only will we have obeyed God’s Greatest Commandment to love, but we will also become the Church, the Body of Christ, that God desires for us.
Let’s look at how God would have us to do this.
First, we are to love God by loving Him for Himself. This is what might be called “Mary love.” I’m sure you remember the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10:41-42 Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her.”
“Mary love” is the kind of love that loves God for Himself. “Mary love” is the kind of love that worships God for who He is, the kind of love that catches a vision of God and is forever transformed by it.
There are many definitions of worship, but one aspect is that it is something done with no ulterior purpose. We don’t worship God because then He has to bless us (that is the exact opposite of how things work); we don’t worship God because it makes us feel good; and we don’t define worship by how good we feel.
We worship God, that is, ascribe “worth-ship” to Him, because He is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise, and because we were created to worship. Love of God begins with direct worship of God: loving God by loving Him for Who He Is. Love of God begins with acknowledging who God is and then responding in the appropriate ways: with awe . . . and reverence . . . and humility.
Mary was content to humbly bow before Jesus Christ, to contemplate who He was and respond with adoration and worship. If we really believed, really knew who this God is – that He is a consuming fire that makes men fall down like they were dead – then we’d worship Him!
This is why churches who worship using the historic liturgies come before God kneeling, confessing our sins, and with reverence and awe.
Therefore, the first and most important thing we ought to be doing to love God is to worship Him. Other people might put other things first, but it seems clear to me that it is the vision of God and the worship of God that can’t help but come from this that is our number one task. It is our vision of God and our worship of Him that will equip and motivate us to love God in all the other ways we should.
But worshiping God (in the more technical and limited sense of the word) is not our only calling and not the only way God asks us to love Him. If we truly see God for who He is and worship Him, then we will want to become like Him. This means that worship must necessarily lead to discipleship.
As we read the Bible, we find that these are the marks of a true disciple:
- They are ready to follow God immediately. “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:19-20, the calling of Peter and Andrew).
- They are ready to give up all things to follow Jesus Christ. “and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:22, of James and John).
- They are ready to deny themselves in order to follow and exalt God. Then
Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
- They are ready to obey at all costs. When God gave the apostles the Great Commission, he told them to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all things He has commanded.
This kind of discipleship, one that is willing to follow God immediately, to give up all things, and to obey completely, is the appropriate and worthy response to the God we worship. It is the second important way we love God.
Is this the kind of relationship you have with God? Are you willing to drop everything, to give up everything, and follow God? I have a vision that God’s people will be a people whose mission is to love God by worshiping Him in such a way that they become disciples of Jesus Christ. For only if someone is first a worshiper, a humble lover and adorer, can he be such a disciple; and only, as we will now see, if we are true disciples, will we love our neighbors as we ought.Discipleship doesn’t happen Sunday mornings but all throughout the week. It happens especially when the Church is intentional about making disciples.
But there is a second way of loving God that is just as important as loving God for Himself. The First Great Commandment cannot be divorced from the Second Great Commandment, for both are ways of loving God: “the second is like unto it,” and “on these two laws, hang all the Law and Prophets.”
It’s not possible to simply love God in the abstract. Part of the reason we do not feel the presence of God, part of the reason we do not love Him enough, is that sometimes we expect that the only way to experience God is to have a direct experience of Him, to talk with Him as Moses did, or to display a supernatural manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, or that loving God only entails direct acts of worship such as praying, going to church, etc.
But God wants all of you – body, mind, and soul – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. The only way to do this is to not only worship God and follow Him as His disciple but also to love the people that God has put in your life, and not just on Sunday morning, but 24/7/365/80.
Though Martha is rebuked by her Lord in Luke 10, the passage I referred to earlier, Martha’s kind of love is also important. If Mary caught the vision of God and so became a worshiper and disciple, then Martha caught the vision of man, and so became a servant. This, too, is love, because from our love of God flows our love for our neighbor.
“Martha love” is a servant love. “Martha love” is a practical love of those God puts in our lives. Worshipers and disciples, then, must become servants, evangelists, and disciplers. Along with Greatest Commandment comes the Great Commission. Our motivation to go out into the world to serve God is not primarily to make the world a better place (as much as we’d all like to see this). Our motivation is to be true worshipers and disciples of Jesus Christ, and if are we worshipers and disciples, we will make the world a better place.
This means that because loving our neighbors is connected with loving God we can only fully love God by becoming servants, evangelists, and disciplers. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Worshipers and disciplers must become servants. “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.
We have a call to serve all those around us: God, family, Church, and neighbors. If we truly are Christ’s disciples, then we will serve as He did. To love your neighbor as yourself, means to serve Him by serving them as He would.
Worshipers and disciples must also become evangelists. You may be thinking “Uh oh . . . evangelists.” But an evangelist is simply one who spreads the Good News of Jesus Christ. There are many ways to do this, but the best way is to simply share your life in Christ with those you already know, and those you meet, as you have occasion. But we must do it, we must love God by spreading His Word. Worshipers and disciples must become evangelists. We must be like the apostles who, when commanded not to speak of the name of Jesus Christ said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
If you’ve truly seen God and worshiped Him, this should be a somewhat natural desire on your part.
Worshipers and disciples must also become disciplers. If we really want to be disciples made like our Lord in all things, then we must disciple others. We are called to edify one another, to use our gifts and talents on behalf of Church, and not just for ourselves.
It’s not enough merely to serve others around us generally; it’s not even enough to evangelize, to introduce others to Christ. The ultimate goal is to make them worshipers and disciples as well. The Great Commission is not about making a few quick converts but about going and making disciples, devoted followers of Jesus Christ who are ready to give up all for His sake.
What greater calling, what more joyful endeavor, than to help the person next to you in the pew, to help the person in your Bible study, to help your friends or family become more like your Lord every day?!
So there it is. The 2 greatest things that the greatest Person desires for you to do. It’s overwhelming, even blinding, to see it all at once. But that’s O.K. You and I have a lifetime to do it, together. The important thing is that we spend today loving God for who He is and by loving Him by loving our neighbors.
Prayer: Ah Lord God, Thou holy lover of my Soul, when Thou comest into my Soul, all that is within me shall rejoice. Thou art my Glory and the exultation of my heart. Thou art my Hope and Refuge in the day of my trouble.
Set me free from all evil passions, and heal my heart of all inordinate affections, that being cured and thoroughly cleansed, may I be made fit to love, courageous to suffer, steady to persevere. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing fuller or better in heaven and earth; because Love is born of God, and cannot rest but in God, above all created things.
Let me love Thee more than myself, let me love others as Thou wouldst have me do, let all I do show that I truly love Thee, as the law of Love commandeth. Amen. (Thomas a Kempis)
Points for Meditation:
- Are you more of a Mary or more of a Martha? How might God be calling you to be more like the other person?
- How is God calling you to worship Him more for who He is?
- How is God calling you to worship Him more by loving your neighbor?
Resolution: I resolve to listen today for the one thing that God says is necessary in my life to love Him more, and then to begin to do it.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson