And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. Mark 12:30 NKJV
Bishop Ignatius, a nineteenth century Russian monk and prolific writer, said:
“Love God as he commanded you to love Him, and not as self-deluded daydreamers think they love Him.”
“Do not fabricate raptures for yourself, do not excite your nerves, do not inflame yourself with a material fire, with the fire of your blood. The sacrifice pleasing to God is humility of heart, contrition of spirit. With wrath does God turn away from sacrifices offered with self-confident presumption, with a proud opinion of oneself, though the sacrifice be a whole burnt offering.”
“Pride excites the nerves, heats the blood, arouses daydreaming, enlivens the life of the fall; humility calms the nerves, subdues the motion of the blood, eliminates daydreaming, mortifies falls, enlivens the life in Jesus Christ.”
““Obedience” before the Lord “is greater than good sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams,” said the Prophet to the Israelite king who had dared to offer to God a wrong sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). When you wish to offer to God the sacrifice of love, do not offer it self-willfully, from a thoughtless impulse; offer it with humility, in that time and that place which the Lord commanded. The spiritual place on which alone spiritual sacrifices are commanded to be offered is humility.”
In contemporary language, we might understand the Bishop to be saying that all the emotional passion and zeal I can muster, even when combined with great sacrifice and impulsive commitment, may seem noble and self-satisfying, but it is not loving God as He commanded.
Loving God, rather, is simple obedience clothed in humility.
Now, don’t be mistaken, our love for God is not without passion, for I am only able to love Him because of what He did for me—freely laying down His life so I could be forgiven and live. Through His gift a deep, deep love for Jesus was planted in my heart—“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
Having a glimpse of His love for me fills me with passion for Him. And because of His great love, I eagerly, humbly, come to Him, to present myself as His servant, His child, to love Him, and He tells me how—follow, obey, keep.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. John 14:15 NKJV
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. John 14:23-24 NKJV
Keeping the commandments of Christ, obeying what He directed, knowing them, learning them, and applying them to our life in all humility, is how we love God.
It begins in our heart. We love “inside-out”. The commandment is to love Him:
- heart—our deepest selves, the seat of who we really are
- soul—our life and all that we are
- mind—our intellect, delighting ourselves in His Word and commandments
- strength—our focused capacity to pursue God’s will and please Him through humble obedience
Dear one, as you realize the weight of mercy poured over your life through the blood of Christ, and sense His overwhelming love for you, fall humbly before Him in gratitude and thankfulness. Then, rise up, and in obedience, clothed with humility, show your love for Him by putting away every selfish desire and keeping His commandments.