Having the right motivation in anything we do, can take something challenging and make it better, easier, and more meaningful because of purpose. In our relationship with God, having the right motivation drastically effects how (and if) we love Him. Jesus says that God must be our number one priority, but if our faith isn’t found in the right place (if we believe because our parents' faith or an emotional experience), then making Him #1 will be impossible. But if we understand the right reasons why God deserves our love, making Him top priority goes from something that is impossible to prioritize, to being our absolute everything. We continue with our series to answer why should we love God?
First John was a letter written by one of Jesus’ closest companions, John, who witnessed most (if not all) of what Jesus did in His ministry. This letter was to give confidence to Christians 2,000 years ago to the truth of who Jesus is. Why would they need confidence? They were legitimately persecuted (imprisoned, beaten, killed) if they chose to love Jesus. With their lives on the line, you better believe they’d want to know that He is the real deal and worth dying for. Although we may not have our lives on the line, if we're going to genuinely trust our lives to Jesus and truly make Him our number one priority, we're going to need good reason too!
What does John say about why we should love God? 1 John 4:7-8 says,
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Loving God and loving others are extremely connected. Just like you can’t have a PB&J without either of those two key ingredients, you cannot separate loving God from loving others. Ultimately, God is the source of all love — in fact, John says God IS love. And love is not just a fuzzy feeling or attraction towards someone, love is both choice and action. If you genuinely love someone, you’ll be moved to listen to them when they need an ear during a tough time, and you show kindness, and generosity, etc. God’s love for us involves choice and action, and there was a particular action that was an ultimate act of love…
1 John 4:9-10 says,
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
That’s how much God loves you, and what makes people followers of Jesus. God sent His Son so “that we might live,” speaking as if we’re already dead (which I believe is exactly his point). We’ve chosen to be our own masters and are wired to love ourselves above everyone else. Our lives are consumed by the pursuit of our own desires. We choose to separate ourselves from the very God that made us — and according to the Bible — this kills us not only literally physically, but a greater spiritual death. Love is a choice and action, and when we choose selfishness, pride, greed, disrespect towards others, cheating, gossiping — we’re choosing to separate ourselves from a perfectly holy God. Just like how darkness and light cannot co-exist, sin and God’s holiness simply cannot co-exist. This is spiritual death for us.
But in the spiral of our spiritual death, God sent His Son as an “atoning sacrifice” for our sins. We don’t use those words, what does that mean? Atonement is making a wrong right, it’s restoration of something that is broken. The death of Jesus was a death that we earned, that He took on His innocent shoulders. That death we deserved was to restore our relationship with God, and Jesus’ resurrection provides the power to forgive our sins.
1 John 4:19, bring us home:
We love because He first loved us.
We didn’t do anything to earn God’s love, we don’t deserve it - He just loves us more than anyone else could. We are driven to love God because of the radical nature of the love he has for us — a love that is personal, fully devoted, sacrificial, forgiving and life-giving. It’s pure grace with no strings attached.
Why should we love God? We should love God because God loves us! If someone loves you, what is a natural response? Love. You respond with love. We love ourselves so much, that when someone loves us, we love it — and naturally love back. Consider how much God loves you: no one loves you like God loves you. To take in the truth of the depth of this love, there’s no other possible response but to love Him with your heart, soul, and mind. And if Jesus sacrificed His life to save yours, the least we can do is live our lives for Him (a beautiful life revolving around love towards others)! If you trust that God is real, if you accept the immense love he has for you, the only response is to make Him top priority in our lives.
What does that look like? It’s important to remember that following JESUS is the core of everything you do, not a momentary thing you do. Making Jesus top priority doesn’t mean that you attend church and squeeze in a devo here and there to check that box. It’s everything you do is for God and founded in love. It’s loving those who hurt you, doing your very best at all you do and with integrity, being respectful to everyone, praying throughout your day that the Spirit leads, guides, and protects. It’s in the decisions you make at school, sports, at work that reflect how Jesus lived. Choosing to do what is right when you’re tempted not to, and asking for forgiveness when you mess up. Praising Him when good things happen and looking to Him for peace and understanding when things are rough. It’s spending time with Him not because you have to but because you can’t live without. Ultimately, it’s loving Him more than anything and loving others as best as you can, even when it hurts.