It was Percy Sledge who sang that song, describing how a man feels when he falls in love. That’s the fun part, the easy part. But how does he win that woman’s love and keep it burning all their days? That’s a lot tougher thing—one God himself has to deal with concerning his human creation.
Is it odd to consider He wants that kind of relationship with us? It’s pure Bible. Jesus described himself as a bridegroom coming one day for us, his bride. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves us, His church. Hosea wrote of a day to come when:
“You will call me your Husband, not your Master…and I will make a new covenant…when you will be mine, faithful and true, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll wed you and will never leave nor forsake you. You will know me for who I am, your Lord.”
I was always taught, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Yet what man is foolish enough to think he can win the woman he loves by telling her, “I order you to love me.” I tried to show God my love by doing the things they taught me in church. Gaylord Enns, a pastor friend of mine tried all his life to obey that command. But how could he just love God? He had a life to live, responsibilities, people depending on him. He felt guilty that he wasn’t praying enough, reading Scripture enough, witnessing enough, etc. One day he had a complete breakdown. While recovering, he began taking a new look at the Scriptures. Eventually Gaylord was set free from the bondage of that old law. You can read all about it in his monumental book, The Love Revolution. Discovering the Lost Commandment of Jesus.
When I was young and stupid, I gave up on loving God. What had he done for me, except put me in this evil world, filled with crushing losses and disappointments? I even began to study atheism. But God didn’t give up on me. He led me to some believers at Yale University who accepted me and took me in. This caused a doubt: maybe I was wrong about God. One night we sang a Wesley hymn, “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God hast died for me.” I was shocked! Was Jesus God? I never knew that. I got alone to pray to God, who until that moment, I had rejected. But he hadn’t rejected me.
It was at my conversion that I knew for sure God hadn’t abandoned us while comfortable in his heaven. He came down to live with us, suffered with us, went to a cruel cross, stretched out his arms to say, “I love you this much!” I knew then the song I sang in Sunday School was true, Jesus loves me, this I know. “Jesus,” I prayed “I’m yours.” Only lately however, have I come to understand that God knew ordering us to love him wouldn’t work. It was a temporary measure until He actually proved His love by doing this amazing thing for us.
The New Covenant Has a New Command. It’s been lost on us, maybe because we’ve been so stuck trying to obey the old one. John writes clearly of the night Jesus was betrayed when he washed their feet, instituted a meal commemorating his coming sacrifice and gave them a new order for a new order.
“A new command I give you: Love one another in the way I loved you. This is how you must love one another. By this everyone will recognize you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13: 34,35)
Confused? You are probably thinking, “That doesn’t make sense.” He knows it doesn’t work to command us to love him. Why then does he order us to love these people, who are, after all, a lot harder to love than He is? Stay tuned. In our next post we will examine this apparent contradiction and see how supremely logical God is.
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