“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” – Jesus Christ, John 14:15 (NKJV)
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.” – Jesus Christ, John 14:15 (MSG)
The following article by William Birch might give you some food for thought:
O God, who has prepared for those who love You such good things as pass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love toward You, that we, loving You in all things and above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 174)
This reading is from next week’s Sixth Sunday of Easter, though today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I wanted so much to engage this text on this day, and that is why I am one week early. Forgive my unorthodoxy.Since I first read of the concept of asking the Lord to help us love Him more worthily, I have been put off, almost offended by such a request. Loving someone, I have always imagined, should come from one’s heart. Husbands, imagine asking your wife to help you love her more, by asking her to perform some mystical work in your heart. I could be wrong, but I think she might be a bit put off, and perhaps a little hurt. She may ask why your love for her is so very insufficient.Granted, our love for the Lord will never match or best His love for us, and we should accept that as an inescapable reality. He is God, after all, and His love for us is infinite. Being finite creatures, our love for God will always pale by comparison. But what, exactly, are we asking by praying: “Pour into our hearts such love toward You, that we, loving You in all things and above all things, may obtain Your promises”? The prayer almost hints at loving the Lord in order to gain blessings (promises). God forbid.I admit: I am uncomfortable in asking God to help me love Him more; and I am not yet convinced that such a prayer should be prayed — at least, not if we are asking and thus basing the request on an emotional appeal, i.e., “Help me love you more, and by that I mean, Help me feel, emotionally, more love toward You.” I think Jesus — and I think the triune God — approaches love in quite a different manner.
When God says, “I love you,” He demonstrates that love. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son.” (John 3:16 NLT, emphases added) From the perspective of God, love is not necessarily a feeling, an emotion, but is a reality that motivates Him toward action. God did not say, “I am filled with such emotion and good feelings for the world.” In essence, He states, “I love the world and I will demonstrate that love in giving up my one and only Son for the world.”Jesus affirms this same view of love as did God His Father at John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So our love for Him is demonstrated not by feelings and emotions but by our obedience. If we love Him then we will obey Him. When we defiantly disobey Him then we demonstrate selfishness and not love. Jesus continues: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me,” as is demonstrated by obedience, “will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:21; cf. John 14:23) Quite plainly Jesus says: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24)He then expounds upon the subject, widening the parameters of loving Him to abiding in Him (cf. John 15:1-7), stating: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10) He adds: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) Again, we display our love for God by obeying Him, and thus abiding in Him. Love, then, is not mere emotion or warm and fuzzy feelings. Love is not goosebumps at hearing a beautiful song and imagining that one has “felt the presence of the Lord.” Love is action. Love is obedience. Love is abiding.This is certainly not to discount feelings, and emotion, and sensing God’s nearness. What blessings are these! But these, in and of themselves, do not properly define what loving God is and what being in relationship with Him comprises. So, our prayer for today, in asking God to pour into our hearts love toward Him, is not at all amiss, I think. After all, St Paul writes that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5) Translating this verse, however, can be a bit difficult.The question asked is, Should we translate the genitive θεοῦ as “love of” or “love for” God? If the latter, then the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts a love for God by His indwelling presence. If the former, then the Spirit pours into our hearts the same kind of love that God Himself possesses. Either way, this poured-out love, since it is a love from God the Holy Spirit, is a demonstrative love, one of action. Hence our prayer today can be assumed as a request not for more love for God but for a motivation toward further obedience, a just demonstration of our love for Him.’
Original title: The Sunday Liturgy: Sixth Sunday Of Easter: We Love You, Lord: Help Our Insufficient Love
Author: William Birch