The Tension in Loving God

Last week, I wrote about how being in Christ enables me to maintain the tension of healthy relationships. As we are in Christ, we respond to his love for us by keeping his commands out of our love for him.  In John 15.9-10, he tells us, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

I find it interesting that people get hung up on which commands from the Bible to obey.  They make it much more complicated than Jesus did.  When Jesus was asked what the most important command given in the Old Testament, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22.37-39)

Jesus makes it simple…we make it more complicated than it really is.  By following the principles in these few passages that Jesus taught, much in life becomes clearer: like how do we maintain the tension of being self-defined while being emotionally engaged with others, as discussed last week? 

We are to love God with our whole selves.  Loving God is finding our significance in him and not in what others think of us. If we see ourselves as God sees us, we are free to be who he created us to be and not what others want us to be.  When I first grasped this truth almost 50 years ago, it changed my whole worldview in an instant.  God knows all my junk and he sees through all my justifications, yet he loves, forgives, accepts, nurtures, and challenges me to walk how he created me to be. 

As we define ourselves as “in Christ,” we find our significance, worthiness, and purpose rooted in Christ’s love and his life being lived in and through us.  This brings tremendous self-definition.  We can be the person God shaped us to be.  We are free to be who he formed us to be in Christ regardless of others or circumstances.

There is nothing that can give you a greater sense of security than that.  I live for an audience of one. I don’t have to please anyone but God. Period. 

Well kind of…

Because Jesus tells us the second command is like the first: we are also to love our neighbor like we love ourselves.  This isn’t the place to discuss that many of us don’t know how to love ourselves which impairs our ability to love others, but suffice it to say, if you don’t know how to appropriately provide self-care, your love of others will be short-circuited.

We need to love others appropriately, which is to emotionally engage with them. Our motivation is to seek our neighbor’s best and, therefore, not stand off in isolation but to emotionally engage with others for their healthy development. This is also for our own development.

We love others by engaging for their best interest at a sacrificial level. We are willing to do whatever we can do to bring about the best in their lives.  It isn’t about enabling others or creating co-dependencies.  Rather, it is engaging with others to the extent that it may cost us dearly in pain, being uncomfortable, saying the hard things, doing the hard things…all with the primary purpose of bringing the most help, health, and long-term benefit for their life.

It isn’t just loving God and doing what we please; it is a dynamic balance between being secure in our love of God and sufficient in our love of our neighbor.  It is keeping in mind who God made us to be with and how he has positioned us to help others be who God wants them to be.  This is how we maintain healthy relationships without becoming co-dependent. 

It is also how we keep the healthy tension of being self-defined and emotionally engaged.  This balance is never static but always a dynamic point moving from one place to another.  At times, we need to clearly see ourselves as Christ sees us, complete in him, while at other times, we need to emotionally engage with others at very deep levels, even at a cost to our own emotional health. That is what love is all about: sacrificing oneself for another. It is living in that tension of loving God and loving others.

This is true of all relationships in life, from our spouses, parenting, grand-parenting, friends, to dealing with the wealthy, poor, successful, or the marginalized.

We are to love God completely and then we can love others appropriately. 






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