OUR LOVE FOR GOD
By D. M. PANTON
When our Lord was challenged with the question Which is the great commandment in the law? - He replied - Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matt. 22: 37), and with all thy strength (Mark 12: 33): this is the great and first commandment. As the first commandment in order, it underlies all lesser commands, and gives them their impetus; and as the great commandment, it overshadows all others, dwarfing them: it is the alpha and omega of Divine law: above all law, and under all law, this command, according to our Lord, is unique.
A Positive Law
Now a law of God is a demand upon man; it is a law: and one tremendous fact about this supreme law is that it is not negative at all, but positive. The Decalogue supplies us with most striking negatives:- thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal. But the whole Divine law is summed up in a positive law, for which all our faculties were made: with all thy heart - the affections; with all thy soul - the life; with all thy mind - the reason; and with all thy strength - the activities. All I am and all I do is to be permeated by love to God: my heart, because I am to feel love; my soul, because I am to live the love I feel; my mind, because thought can accomplish the emotions of love; and my strength, because all my life is to be consecrated to love.
The Supreme Law
So love is the pivot, the hinge, the cardinal principle on these two commandments [of love] hang all the law and the prophets - not only all of the Gospel, nor even of the Prophets, but of the Law itself. What an extraordinary revelation of God: God hungers for love; He created us in order to have our love; He made the Law to enforce love; He made the Gospel to reveal love; and He made eternity to display love. And what light it casts on the human! The most evil man, the most malignant hater, was originally created to love: every human soul was made for the divinest of all emotions, and for the highest of all possible passions - a devotion to God of which eternity can never exhaust the charm and blessing.
Gods Love For Us
But now we find far the most profound urge to the love of God, not in the law that enforces it, but in His love for us. When we realize what that love for us is, we can respond with our whole hearts. For it is a love unimaginable. Pauls prayer for his fellow-Christians was this:- that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge (Eph. 3: 17). We are to be so rooted and grounded in love ourselves that the vision of Christs love will begin to dawn upon us. Its breadth - all mankind; its length - eternity; its height - the Throne of God; its depth - fathomless corruption. For so the Scripture asserts:- breadth - God so loved the world; length - I have loved thee with an everlasting love; height - God is love; depth - I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. He gave me His all, therefore I must give Him my all.
A Personal Love
So we have a wonderful photograph of the Divine love for us
humans, embodied in Christ. That ye may
know the love of Christ - not to apprehend its dimensions, but to appreciate its quality, as we
grow in our personal response to that love - which passeth
knowledge. The love of Christ is so vast a continent that for all
eternity there will be new lands in it to be explored, new continents to be
discovered. And it is all so exquisitely
personal. He loved me, and gave himself
for me (Gal. 2: 20).
Our Lovable God
Most happily, love provokes love: in the words of Paul - The love of Christ constraineth us (2 Cor. 5: 14). George Muller thus expresses our response to the love of God. As we study the Word of God we shall find out more and more that God is the Lovable One, GOD IS THE LOVABLE ONE, GOD IS THE LOVABLE ONE; and before I go any further, I stop and ask you what is the response of your inmost soul? Is God, to you, the Lovable One? If not, you are not acquainted with Him. You have yet to find out that He is the most Lovable One. Oh, seek to say in your inmost heart that He is the Lovable One! The result will be that you will confide in Him unreservedly, at all times, in all circumstances. Though He slay you yet will you trust in Him. The following verses were found pencilled on the wall of a room in a hospital by an unknown patient and discovered only after his death:-
Could we with ink the ocean fill, ancl were the skies of parchment made.
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, tho stretched from sky to sky.
Love At Work
So Paul says we are to know what passes knowledge: To know the love of Christ which passeth
knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. Our growth in love for God and His Christ
means at last being filled unto all the fulness of God. You must love,
says Robertson of
A Loveless World
Now therefore, in face of this supreme command, we are confronted with a blank as terrible. The command is to all humanity:- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. The Rabbis counted in the Law of Moses 613 precepts of which 365 were prohibitions, and 248 were commands: had it been possible for a man to keep them all, but had he broken this one, he must appear as a major criminal, for it is the major law. Over the whole world we see no love of God; and if there be no greater command to break, there can be no greater sin to commit. Men neither know this law; nor know its critical nature; nor realize their own disobedience; nor know their consequent doom. And, most extraordinary of all, there is not a living soul who, if taxed with the fact that he does not love God, will not acknowledge freely and without reserve that he is guilty of the Supreme Law.
Love of Christ
It is remarkable that a Member of Parliament reveals the worlds need of the love of Christ. Mr. Lang says:- There is not one of us engaged in public affairs at home and abroad, who is not convinced that the greatest challenge, the greatest test is about to come. It may be that people talk too freely about the next war. Certainly the danger is real, and the tragedy of it could scarcely be overstated. When it comes I hope that none of us will allow ourselves to be led away, and merely to look at it from the standpoint of atomic warfare; that would be an awful and fearful thing. But there is a worse aspect still to be considered. I have said this a good deal lately on the Continent, as well as in this country - if war does come again, and there is nothing that can prevent that, outside the love of Christ in mens hearts - all the political systems in the world are powerless; all the politicians are powerless; nothing but the love of Christ in mens hearts can give us real peace.
Obedience Is Love
Finally, our Lord sheds wonderful light on how we can love Him. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is - He deliberately stresses it, singling this man out as His real lover - that loveth me (John 14: 21). We must not detract from His commandments, nor add to them, nor modify them; but, much more than that, we must keep them - obedience is the sole proof of our love. If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments (John 14: 15, R.V.) An ancient King, much beloved, went into a far country to help to quell disorder with his gracious personality, and was away for long. When he returned, he found troubles and tumults, though he received a joyous welcome. Entering the Council Chamber, he read aloud the rules he had left on his departure: only to find that some had lost the paper; some had wilfully burnt it; and many had broken one or more of the rules. Looking sorrowfully at them, he gravely asked:- Do you love your sovereign? They all answered Yes. But when he held up a copy of his laws, they all hung their heads; and then he said,- He who has my laws, and keeps them, he, and he only, loves me. According to the fulness of our obedience is the fulness of our love.