Defined by Our Love for God
By Gary Henry
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).
Our love for God ought to be our defining characteristic and the thing that determines our action. If there is to be a fixed center point around which all our other characteristics revolve, the love of God should be it. There is no statement of more fundamental, far-reaching importance than the famous statement of Moses to Israel: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” No less an authority than Jesus quoted this text when He was asked what was the greatest commandment in God’s law.
In any person’s life, the object of that person’s love makes some kind of comment as to his or her character. As Arsene Houssaye said, “Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you what you are.” But if this holds true in general, it is also true with respect to God. In assessing the quality of our character, all anyone ever needs to know is the answer to this question: how deep is our love for our Creator? When that question has been answered accurately, the very root of our personal being will have been discovered. And if the truth is that we do not love God, then nothing else can compensate for that deficiency.
Our love for God is to be an all-encompassing, consummate love. To love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength means that many other concerns (some of which by themselves are quite important) must be subordinated to our love for God. And this is not a thing we can do once (on some “great” occasion) and then forget about it. Putting the love of God at the center of our hearts and keeping it there is a matter of daily decision. When we neglect this daily decision to love God, it doesn’t take more than a few days for the chaos to begin creeping back in. So we must resist this tendency at all costs. We must draw the lines of demarcation where they ought to be drawn — and thereby “define” ourselves as people who truly do love God.
“We must spiritually renounce all other loves for love of God or at least so hold them in subordination to this that we are ready to forego them for its sake; yet when we find God . . . we find in and with him all the loves which for his sake we had foregone” (William Temple).