In some ways the Christian life is really very simple: it’s all about love. First of all, it’s about God’s love for us. Apparently it’s not that easy for us to grasp that we really are loved by God, small, weak and sinful creatures that we are. So Paul feels the need to pray and ask God to “strengthen [us] with power” if we are to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:16-18). It seems we have trouble getting hold of just how much we are loved by God. But then again, that would explain why we sometimes struggle to trust God and to obey his commands.
Next, and only then, comes our love for God, followed by our love for our neighbour. Notice that the two great commandments come in that order: first our love for God, then second our love for one another (Mark 12:29-31). If I don’t love God first of all, then I won’t love my neighbour properly; I will instead simply give in to their demands or perhaps ‘love’ them so as to meet my own felt needs.
This also helps us to explain, both to ourselves and to others, why it is that we obey God’s commands, especially when they are difficult or counter-cultural (or both). And so we can reason: “Does God love me? Do I love him? Is this what he says? Then I’ll do it!”
Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister/Vicar)