What values guide our decisions? We do what we value – so it is important to check that we value those things that are really most important.
Jesus leaves us in no doubt about what is most important. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’ – that is the most important commandment, he says. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ – that comes next. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ – that is the one new commandment he gave his disciples. ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ – that is his great commission to his disciples. Our values need to reflect these: 1) love for God, 2) love for our neighbour, 3) love for one another, and 4) making disciples.
Today we begin to look at the first of these values, love for God.
We love, because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Ephesians 3:14-21 contains a prayer that we might get to know the love of Christ in all its dimensions. We can never fully grasp how much Jesus Christ loves each one of us; but we can know that love even though we do not know all its ins and outs, just as a child may know its parents’ love and be secure in that love without understanding quite what that love involves. We do know something of the love of Jesus: how he gave his life for us, and calls us to join him in an eternal destiny of unimaginable happiness and fulfilment – even though we have so often ignored him, rejected his authority, and turned away from his paths. St Paul, who wrote these words, had once hated Jesus and his followers and tried to kill them.
The love of Christ which the Ephesians passage speaks of is the love of God for us. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). If we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father (John 14:9), so what we see of Jesus’ love shows us what the Father’s love is like.
The passage from Matthew gives us some of Jesus’ teaching about the Father’s love. ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ He does this, not because he has set the world in motion and cannot be bothered to interfere, but because he loves all people, bad and good, indiscriminately. There is a sense in which God is always turning the other cheek, always going the extra mile. God loves those who ignore him, those who hate him, as well as those who like us try to respond to his love. The fact that there are natural disasters does not contradict this. When disasters happen, they happen to good and bad alike – they are not sent as punishment for specific sins but are simply the way things are in this fallen world, and I am sure God is more grieved than all of us who have grown somewhat hardened to human suffering.
We value whole-hearted love for God because it is the only proper response to his love for us. His love for us is absolutely amazing!
God’s love for us is practical. It is sometimes something we can sense, but mostly it is seen in what God has done for us – in creation, in nice things that happen, above all in Jesus Christ. Our love for him is also has to be practical, seen in what we do. The more we see of him, the more we will love him and the more we will act like him. Loving actions are often sacrificial, of no benefit to the doer; and if we love God we will find ourselves acting in ways that may not make much sense – turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, even forgiving our enemies.
Love for God should be the foundation of all others.
Let us put love for him first!
1) When do we feel close to God? How can we draw closer to him?
2) How can we share the love of God with those around us?