Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30
Jesus gave the answer above (a direct quote of Deuteronomy 6:5) when someone asked Him which commandment was the most important. The most important commandment, or thing God has ordered us to do, is simply to love Him.
But how good are we at doing that, really?
For too many people, Christianity is seen as a checklist. Go to church: check. Get baptized: check. Don’t murder, steal, or lie: check, check, and…well, if I’m being honest…
By making it into a bunch of rules, you run the risk of missing the one “rule” that Jesus Himself says is most important: having a relationship with Him. Having deep affection for Him. Making Him the true love of your life.
So how do you do that? Well, just like in any long-term relationship, it takes work on your part. It’s not just about feelings or “falling in love”; it requires that you actively pursue God as He pursues you. That’s why the command includes not just loving Him with all your “heart,” but also your “soul,” “mind,” and “strength.”
Here are some tips (not rules, not a checklist, but just some things that tend to work) to help you develop your love for God.
Know Him. You can’t have any kind of relationship with someone unless you know them. Not just know of them, or admire them from afar, but actually know them personally. This is where you move from a checklist to a relationship. If you’re still trying to work your way to God instead of trusting in Christ’s work on the cross, or don’t know why the gospel is good news, drop us a line.
Read His love letters. In other words, spend time studying the Bible. It’s a big book, and He has a lot to say to you there. When you read a love letter, you don’t just skim over it to get the general idea, or treat it as a chore because your lover expects you to read for 10 minutes every day. You study it, weighing every line and considering the meaning behind every word.
Talk with Him. Pray. Pray all the time. Imagine being married and being around your spouse 24 hours a day, and yet never saying a word to them—or just saying something ritualistic to them once a day before bed, or before every meal. I don’t think there’d be a lot of love in that relationship. So talk. Be intimate, sharing what you really think and feel. He can handle it.
Do the things that stir your affections for Him. That’s a paraphrase from Matt Chandler, who gave me the idea: namely, that there are certain places or things that tend to make you feel closer to God. I can’t tell you what those are, because they’re different for everyone. For some, it’s getting out into nature. For others, it’s spending quiet time first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee. One person told me that listening to music by Shane & Shane is what stirs their affections for God. Whatever it is, make time for it, and make it an important part of your schedule.
Follow His advice. Again, it’s not all about following a set of rules. But if God says in His Word that something is bad for you (or good for you), and if you trust Him, then you should strive to do what He says. We all still mess up, and there is forgiveness for that, but don’t willfully rebel and just decide that you know better than God (you don’t). If you’re married, and your spouse says to take out the trash, the loving thing to do is to take out the trash—not scatter it all over the inside of the house. Jesus addressed this specifically in John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.”
Take part in what He’s doing. When you’re getting to know someone and trying to show your affection, one way to do so is to take an interest in what they’re interested in. You might take up a sport that they love to play, or watch the kind of movies they like to watch. If you want to love God, you should care about what He cares about, and seek to accomplish His will.
Taking part in God’s interests would include loving other people, which Jesus mentions as the second most important commandment (Mark 12:31). And loving them well would mean sharing the good news of the gospel with them, which is what God wants to happen (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
How are you kindling your romance with God?