The day that Christ entered my life was sunny. I remember sitting on my front step soon after that encounter and marveling at the change in my understanding. Truly the sky seemed bluer and the flowers more brilliant, but what I noticed most was a new attitude toward people.
Prior to becoming a Christian, I knew that I should care more about people, but I could not make that happen. I was more concerned about me and that was that. But Jesus made a difference, and I immediately noticed the change in my affections. Of course, that was a mere beginning. Love starts as a trickle before it becomes a Niagara!
As I drop the idols that pull me away from God, the Lord reminds me of what a friend once said, “When I love God, that does not mean that I hate my wife.” I’m to love others, but with the right kind of love, God’s love.
The love of idolatry, if it can be called love, is different from the love of God. Idolatry is all about what that idol (which can be money, fame, even another person) can do for me. The love of God is about what I can do for others. John describes it well, then adds this clarification . . .
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19–21)
Hating others makes loving God impossible. He says we demonstrate our love for Him by obeying what He commands, and He commands us to love one another. As a non-Christian, I knew the command but had no power to obey. I probably didn’t really want to anyway, but Christ made the difference.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Christ is the answer to the love question. From Him comes the love that God commands. His love is not like mine. He never places it in the wrong god because He has no attraction to idols of any sort. When my attitude toward money, fame, other people and any potential idol is the same as His attitude, then idolatry is not a problem.
Furthermore, my love fades or gives up when the object of it no longer does what I want, no longer feeds my ego, or fills my pocketbook, or blesses me in some way. His love is not like that. It endures . . .
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever . . . (Psalm 136:1–3)
Loving others in the power of Christ usually involves some sort of personal sacrifice, yet I still benefit for I am also receiving that love that He asks me to pass on to others. In that, my love for Him increases. The math might not work, but the love of God isn’t math. He keeps giving and the more I give back, the more I receive.
The love of God means that I can love Him too. He saved me and gives me eternal hope. I love Him for He is my strength (Psalm 18:1) and “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” (Psalm 116:1) But most of all, I love Him because He first loved me.