We, as a people, have generally been infatuated with ourselves. Because we are born naturally loving ourselves and seeking our own best interest (human, sinful nature), often times our perception of love is based on what we can get out of someone else. Has someone ever asked you to do something or proposed an idea, and you ask “What’s in it for me?” Do you ever get tired of giving in to other people’s desires and whine, “When is it my turn?” We even unknowingly seek out a spouse by what he can do or provide for us. Do you (did you) have a check list of non negotiables? Must be funny (to make me laugh), must be educated (to stimulate my mind), must have a good job (to be able to take care of me), must be attractive (so I can impress my friends and enjoy looking at him), and the list goes on.
Now, I am not saying that we should choose lazy bums to marry just for the sake of being selfless, but we should intentionally examine our understanding of love. Are we in it to give or are we in it to get?
As Christians, we can easily fall into the temptation of “loving” God because of His benefits. Scripture even teaches us that love, fundamentally, is Jesus dying for us. Right?
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
– 1 John 4.10
The first Bible verse most of us learn is John 3.16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
And the first church song most of us learn is “Jesus Loves Me”,
“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.”
And since we have been indoctrinated that God is love, and He loves us, we continue to write similar songs! “I am a friend of God”, “We are no longer slaves”, etc. Yes, these things are true – but it is not a worship song to sing about who we are. It is a worship song to praise God for who He is. Think about it.
Campus Crusade for Christ has written an evangelistic tool called the “Four Spiritual Laws”, and the first one is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”.
Yes, it is the most glorious truth in the universe that God loves us and that He gave His son to die in our place so that we can be forgiven of our sins. But often, instead of recognizing the nature of God’s love: giving of Himself to meet our needs and take care of believers, we just soak it all in. We think we are the center of the universe and can just absorb all of the good things that He has for us. Then we are upset, hurt, confused and cranky when things don’t work out the way we hoped, dreamed or planned. If God loves me, then why?
We need, however, to learn what love is and practice it ourselves. Jesus was not just a gift, He was an example. He loved us and because of that love, He sacrificed everything He had in Heaven to live a life of poverty on Earth and died for us. Therefore, if we love Him in response, we should sacrifice everything that we have and give up our lives for Him! Now, Jesus may not ask us all to die the death of a martyr, but we all must be willing! This is why Jesus said,
– Matt 16.25
If we are “loving” God because of His benefits and not because of who He is, then we are truly loving our lives and not Him. We will thus lose our lives, eternally. Does God make you feel warm and fuzzy? Are you “claiming His promises” and enjoying His benefits without enjoying Him? Or are you so overwhelmed by the sacrifice that He made, that you accept the gift and in return surrender your life?
Thus our love must be rooted in trust. It is not my intention to square love and trust against one another. When understood correctly, they coincide and compliment one another perfectly. When we have a skewed perception of love, however, we can learn love more fully if we understand trust.
God is sovereign, and He does have a plan for all of our lives. He does work everything together for good for those who love Him. He does love us, and work our sanctification in our lives. He is intentionally utilizing every life situation in which we find ourselves to mold us into the image of Christ, and that all to His glory and honor. Because of this fact, our circumstances may often become what we did not want or expect. God sanctifies us by burning out the impurities: He is the consuming and purifying fire. If we expect God to make us happy, then our understanding of love with leave us disappointed and hurt. But if we expect God to make us holy, then we can have peace in the difficult times.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in God, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”
– Is 26.3-4
Trust and love both fundamentally look outward. God’s love looked at us and broke His heart because of our sin and condemnation. Our love must look at God in awe and wonder, praising Him for the gift of salvation and surrendering of our lives. We can learn love more fully by learning to trust. Trusting always looks outward, it cannot be misconstrued to be about me. Trusting necessarily means not having control and expecting someone else to have control, and to bring about the best conclusion to a situation. And it also recognizes that the “best” may not be our desired outcome, but the most God-glorifying outcome which will lead to our maturation and sanctification.
Why do you love God? How do you love God? Do you expect God to serve your wants and needs? Or do you love God by surrendering your life to Him and trusting Him? Let us learn to love God more by trusting Him today.