Thursday, April 9, 2015

Love God First; Obedience Will Follow

Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday, the second reading will be from 1 Jn 5:1-6.

John covers a lot - and I do mean a lot - in these six verses, and there are several correct things that one could talk about, based on them.

The sentence that jumped out at me was this one: “… The love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”

I had a professor in college who was fond of saying, “the fear of Hell is insufficient to avoid it.” (He’s Catholic.)

Wise words from a wise man, right?

That said - the fear of Hell is often the first step on our journey toward a real relationship with Christ.

In my mind - this is often closely followed (for the believer) by gratitude, once they know the basics of the Christian faith.

When we reflect on the magnitude of the gift given to us - our salvation, and being suddenly freed from the tyranny of sin, death, and Hell (a huge gift, to be sure) -  and sit with our gratitude for a while, it is hard to avoid loving for the giver.

I don’t know about you, but I really WANT to make a return for such a gift. To try to give God some little present in return. Another way to express this is I want to show God that I love him. (Even though he knows it already.)

How should we manifest our love for God? This is one of (very) many things that John talks about in this passage.

John instructs the Christian believers to manifest their love for God by keeping his commandments. Naturally, for a new believer, this would have sounded difficult - like a tall order, especially for those who weren’t used to keeping the law.

John, of course, sees this problem coming, and he reminds the faithful that, “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world” and that he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God is victor over the world.

I don’t know about you, but keeping God’s commandments still doesn’t come easily for me. This is because I am human, and my love is not as perfect and complete and selfless as it should be. I care if people don't say thank you; I care if I am going to a lot of trouble and expense and that fact is not respected.

My dad used to have a tape of a sermon - no idea who gave it or if he still has it, but the speaker made this observation:
In the first psalm, the psalmist speaks of how he delights in the law of the Lord, meditates upon it day and night. The psalmist does not say obey - this is because he does not need to. If one delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night, obedience is automatic.
(If you know who this is, please let me know! I would like to give proper attribution.)
It's a wonderful observation. Our strategy, then, in keeping the commandment of God, should not be to focus first on obedience to show our love. Rather, our strategy should be to focus on loving God with all of our hearts - and obedience will come naturally.

Let’s Pray:

God of mercy, grace, and love, we know that in love you created us in your divine image. Plant in us the ability to love as you love - completely - and let us direct that love first back toward you, that in love for you, we might keep your laws and love all of your people.

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