Learning to Love Well, Part 1 – God
“Loving God well isn’t as easy as you would think! It requires commitment, loyalty, and perseverance—elements our culture would rather have us devote to things other than God.”
Welcome to Part 1 of Learning to Love Well. Over several weeks, we’ll explore how to love the people in our lives well. These include people that God has placed in our lives on purpose, including husbands (boyfriends), children, parents or family members, bosses/co-workers, neighbors, those in our community or groups we belong to, and the poor. These categories look different for everyone, but our mission is clear: We were designed with the purpose of letting God love us and using that love to love others well.
What does it mean to “love well”? That might seem like an obvious question, but the word well can either mean, “in a good or satisfactory way,” with synonyms being suitably, correctly, properly, nicely…or, “in a thorough manner,” with synonyms being carefully, methodically, attentively, in depth, exhaustively, completely, conscientiously, and so on. You can see there is a difference between them—one being average and the other a higher level. Because God loves us with intensity, depth, and a fierce loyalty, I think loving our neighbors as ourselves requires a higher level of love. (Of course, our love can never compare with his even on our best day!) We love well when we do what is needed, right, and good—for God, others, and ourselves.
Let’s start with what it means to love God well. It isn’t as easy as you would think! It requires commitment, loyalty, and perseverance—elements our culture would rather have us devote to things other than God. Let’s look at three practical ways to love him well.
1) What is needed to love God well?
A right relationship with him.
The idea of having a “right” relationship is key here. All of us have relationships, either good or bad ones. Having a good relationship with someone means that you are involved in each other’s life, you care about the things he or she cares about, and you make an effort to spend time talking or doing things together. You are for each other. You want good things for them. You do things that make them happy. You make a positive contribution to their life.
When a relationship is bad, there is often distance, bad feelings or indifference, a lack of involvement in the other person’s life, and even malicious actions bent toward harming them or causing pain. We often ignore their advice, warnings, or attempts at making peace, possibly considering ourselves better than them and not worth our time or energy.
The truth is that God wants a good relationship with us—a commitment. But without Jesus in our lives, the relationship with him can never be right or good no matter how hard we try. How do I know this? The Bible—it is God’s message to us about how to make things right with him. Believing what God says about Jesus and what Jesus says about himself is a step toward having God in your life. Check out these verses to see for yourself: John 3:31-36; John 14:6. In short, the answer to having a good relationship with God is to believe what God has to say about it—you have to have a confessed belief in and devotion to his Son, Jesus Christ. If you have never approached God to enter into a right relationship with him, I would recommend talking to a pastor or a friend who you know to be a Christian. They can lead you through a simple prayer of acceptance to get you started in a new, wonderful relationship of love with God. I would love to hear from you about this if you made a decision for Jesus. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
2) What is the right way to love God well?
Obey his commands.
Obedience is a demonstration of loyalty to God as well as an acknowledgement that the things that matter to God matter to us. John 14 says, “If you love me, keep my commands” (v. 15), “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (v. 21), and, “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (v. 23). Jesus is speaking of the Ten Commandments, which starts with “I am the Lord your God,” and “You shall have no other gods before me.” I talked about this in my previous blog post, A Different Kind of Love that you can access by clicking here. The only way to truly understand what Jesus means by “keeping My commands,” is to read and study them. For example, it’s not enough to not commit murder—heck, nearly all of us can avoid that. But only those who devote their time to understanding learn that Jesus has a higher meaning of what murder entails (Matt. 5:21-26).
You can love God well by getting to know Jesus so that you can obey his commands. You can do this by:
- Reading your Bible—get a very easy to read version, like the NIV or the ESV, which is a modern-day translation in today’s language. Join a Bible study group at your church or a local community Bible study, like BSF or CBS.
- Going to church—church is important and matters to God! He wants you to be part of a church community because that is the place you’ll learn more about him and how to do life with others on the same journey of faith. It’s not good enough to just sit at home and watch a sermon on t.v. or the internet or do nothing to learn about him at all. Belonging and participating in a church community is important to God, so it should be important to us, too. That is, if we want to love God well.
- Practicing what you learn. This is hard, to say the least, but this is where the rubber meets the road in our journey of faith in Christ. The good news about God is that he knows we can’t be perfect all at once, and he helps us overcome whatever it is he is asking us to change. Even better, he extends grace to us when we mess up or fall down; he is mainly concerned that we are trying. I remember when I became a Christian in 1998. I had a problem—I still had a trucker’s mouth that would spew out foul words more often than I care to admit! I know, hard to believe if you know me now. But the people who knew me before probably remember—yuck! Anyway, this bad habit was deeply engrained in my behavior and thinking but, knowing it had to go, I prayed a prayer asking God to remove this way of talking and thinking from me. I even wrote the date in my Bible—10/9/98, “Asked God to help me stop cussing.” Well guess what? He did! For the next three days, every time I opened my mouth to cuss, I heard a terrible screeching sound in my ears, like nails (or worse) on a chalkboard. After a few times of that, I was able to stop myself and pick a different word. It took three days to overcome my problem, but I can tell you that it worked. Now, do I never ever blurt out a cuss word? Unfortunately, no. I tell God “I’m sorry,” and try to do better. Interestingly, when I start to fall back into this habit, it’s usually always because I’ve put my relationship with Jesus on the back burner.
Which leads me to #3:
3) What is a good way to love God well?
Jesus give us the answer: “Remain in my love,” (John 15:9).
This is where perseverance comes in. It’s not enough to say you believe in Jesus, or even go to church, read the Bible, and serve other people. (Even though those things are all very good and are a part of loving God well.) We also have to remain with him, through thick and thin, good times and bad. The dictionary defines the word “remain,” as “stay in the place one has been occupying.” But if we look at the word “persevere,” it means, “to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success,” and “to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.” When we remain in him, we persevere in our faith that he can help us, no matter what our circumstances for the duration of our lives here on earth. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. No quitters allowed! Perseverance in the faith brings about many promises, such as, the “crown of life,” (James 1:12), rich rewards (Hebrews 10:35-38), and maturity in faith (James 1:4). I highly recommend you reading the vine passage in its entirety, John 15:1-17, as Jesus shows what happens when we remain in right relationship with him: we are able to obey his commands, bear good and lasting fruit, and receive blessings beyond measure, if not in this life, then the next eternal one.
The passage ends with his command to love each other, and that’s where I will leave off for today. Next week in Part 2, I will show you some practical ways we can love our husbands (or boyfriends) well—in ways that are needed, right, and good.
Blessings to you all,