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How do we love God?

From the November 14, 2016 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Finding an answer to this question is central to our spiritual growth. Our Master, Christ Jesus, referred to the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” as the “first great commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38). This isn’t just a nice statement to ponder or an idle request that we should love God when we get around to it. It means that the commandment should be central to how we live our lives. But how do we put it into practice?

It’s pretty easy to love the awesome beauties of the natural world. We find inspiration in seeing the ocean, joy in bird song, and feel wonder at the starry skies at night. But the creator of all good may seem distant or unknowable—so loving God may not seem so easy, at least it wasn’t for me.

Because it’s been my habit to ask God for help when I’m presented with a spiritual need, I started with a simple, heartfelt petition that went something like this: “Father, please show me how to love You.” There were variations on this theme, but I was persistent and consistent, praying it for weeks. 

Then it suddenly happened. God answered my prayer by telling me one time, when I was very concerned about someone I cared about, this glorious truth: “He is My child. I will take good care of him; he is safe.” With tears of gratitude streaming down my face, I actually felt honest-to-goodness love for our Father. 

How is it that we can even expect to love God? The Bible says, “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). Wow! It follows naturally that we love when we’re loved. What a profound fact to learn that each of us is truly loved by God. What does that mean?

Because God loves us, we all can feel confident that, as Mary Baker Eddy tells us in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494).  

One way to love God is to spend some prayer time, basking in God’s love for us.

Because God loves us, we are able to discover our spiritual authentic selfhood because “with lovingkindness” has God “drawn” us (see Jeremiah 31:3). This gives us the courage to push back the supposed limits of lack, mediocrity, and fear in order to be what God causes us to be. 

Because God loves us, we are assured that although we may encounter rough patches in our spiritual journey, God is there to guide our footsteps, empower our efforts to achieve good, and encourage us in our faltering moments.

Because God loves us, we can trust that good will triumph, our tears will turn into joy, and we will feel the tender mercy of an all-encompassing Father-Mother God.

These are just a few of the unlimited ways God evidences Her love for all. 

And what is our response to this outpouring of blessings? When we recognize them, it is natural to feel a deep love for their source.  

One way to love God is to spend some prayer time, basking in God’s love for us. Inviting God to touch our hearts, to move us, to reveal Herself to us. This will bring results. 

Another is to understand that loving is natural to each of us. We are created by divine Love to express that love. Mrs. Eddy gives this wonderfully clear one-liner: “And Love is reflected in love” (Science and Health, p. 17). Since “God is love” (I John 4:8), His creation man, the real, spiritual man, is not only made to love; he is made of love.  

Learning to love God is an unfolding adventure as we discover ways in which to love God more and more. Opening our hearts and thought to find evidences of God’s love in our lives brings rich rewards. When we see more of God’s goodness, we are grateful for each sign of Immanuel or God with us. Our faith is strengthened, our lives become illumined with inspiration, and our healing work becomes buoyant with joy.

Recently I made a new discovery in loving God. My habit at church for years had been to skedaddle as soon as a service ended. I felt socially awkward and somewhat inadequate to make small talk. A dear friend said my behavior gave the impression that I was a snob. I was horrified. 

Soon after that, during an early morning prayer time, the thought came that if I loved God, I needed to love His creation. This startling insight came on a Sunday morning. Driving to church, I knew my days of rushing out the door as soon as possible were over. That day I went right into church from the Sunday School, where I teach. I went up to people, greeted them, loved them. I sought out those who had come alone, those who hadn’t been there in a while; I even looked for the visitor. I had always endeavored to love others, but this brought a new dimension to my experience. I never knew the joy that could come from loving God by loving Her creation. It takes self out of it and leaves only love.

For me it followed so naturally, that when we obey the first great commandment, obeying the second, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39), just happens.

Our upward path in learning to love God whets our appetite for more. We find that we yearn to do what the Bible describes as loving God totally, supremely. But we can be grateful to have at least started, and we can look forward each day to learning to love Him more.  

Deborah Huebsch

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