I’m still trying to figure out if I really love God. I do so little that demonstrates love for God. I mean to talk to Him in prayer, but I do the dishes instead. I mean to read His Word, but I check email instead. I mean to get more involved at church, but haven’t gotten around to it. I barely make it to church on Sundays.
It is possible that I only love (and I use this word very loosely) God because He loves me. It’s an obligatory, reciprocal love, the kind of love celebrities have for their fans. It’s fickle at best, fake at worst.
I always thought that if I searched deep within my heart— deep, deep, deep within—I would unearth true love for God. I could hold it up to God like a nugget of gold and smile, declaring, “See? I knew it was there. I do love you.” Instead, what I find in the depths of my heart is fear of God and need for Him, not exactly love for Him.
Yet I continue to convince myself that I love God. I surround myself with people who love God. I act as if I love God. Philip Yancey says, “For me, the life of faith sometimes consists of acting as if the whole thing is true. It’s much easier to act your way into feelings than to feel your way into actions…” (Reaching for the Invisible God)
The problem is, it’s all an act. I fear that the act will never actualize. But I operate on the assumption that true love for God will be cultivated in me—eventually.
Until then, God continues to love me. He loved me before I ever loved Him, and He loves me when I don’t love Him. The foolishness of the gospel is that it has to be this way. If God’s love was conditional like human love, it wouldn’t compel a life of discipleship. It wouldn’t inspire worship. It would rip out the very heart of Christianity–the scandalous nature of God’s love.
God gives me the love He wants from me. What he demands, He also provides. All my love for God is borrowed from God. If He did not provide me with love for Him, I would have no love of my own to offer Him. That God accepts His own love as mine is sheer grace.
In his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Michael Horton says, “[God] loves us because of his own disposition, not because of ours. He can love the unlovely because he is God and he does not need a worthy object; unlike us, he can simply choose to love as he pleases. And if there is anything standing in the way of his love, he is powerful enough to remove the obstacle. The cross, of course, demonstrates the lengths he was willing to go for those he loved.”
I wish I could love God with the same kind of love with which He loves me. Love that is independent of its object. Love that is given and given and given, even if it is never received. Love that does not stand outside of bars, bedrooms, and brothels, but follows you in. Love that isn’t quantified, calculated, or strategized.
Because of the curse of the Fall, I think my love for God will always be somewhat selfish and shallow, motivated partly by fear, partly by guilt, and partly by a sense of duty. My love for God will always be broken.
God is love. Perfect love. I cannot improve on that or add to it. That God himself is love frees Him to save me without having to first be loved by me.
The good news is: Love for God is not what ultimately saves us; the love of God is.
What a relief.