Love is the Primary Response to God

There are so many responses that should flow from the Christian towards their great God. Reverence, humility, obedience, all of these things are proper and necessary responses to this glorious Triune God, but I believe there is one response which serves as the primary response of the Christian to God, and is the response by which all the others rightly flow out of. The Christian’s primary response to God is love. This seems obvious, but the question is why? Why would love be such an obvious response for the Christian, and the answer is because love is the foundation of a right relationship. Less one think that I am being merely subjective in this, I believe that Scripture reveals that love is to be the primary response to God, and the means by which all other responses are derived from. This love for God is reflected as an equal love for all three persons of the Godhead.

This concept of love for God as the primary response for the believer is permeated throughout Scripture. Scripture teaches that “God loves those who love him” (Prov. 8:17). In Deuteronomy 6:5, it says that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The significance of this passage is that Jesus refers to it as the supreme command (Mk. 12:30). In other words every other command, every other act of obedience, flows out of this response to God. Jesus throughout the gospels implemented the necessity of this love in Luke 14, where he basically states that if your love for your family or your love for self are on equal footing with him then you cannot be his disciple (Lk. 14:26-27).  Elsewhere, Jesus teaches that obedience to God is the result of love for God (Jn. 14:21). This love for God is what rightly directs our love for everyone else. This is why “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the second command (Mk. 12:31) because without a proper love for God you will never rightly love anyone else. For example, I can love my wife best because I love my God most.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes that prior to salvation “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God” ( Rom. 8:7). In other words, outside of Christ, we are enemies of God. Yet in this passage, Paul outlines how one goes from enemies of God to children of God. He then unfolds the Holy Spirit’s work for the believer and the confidence that these children of God should now have in Christ, and he explains why they can have that confidence. Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, ESV, Emphasis mine). It is those who love God who can know that he is working every facet of their life, both good and bad, for their ultimate good. Paul shows here that the main difference between enemies of God and children of God is that the latter have a deep love for God. This is the primary response of the Christian, and it is impossible for anyone outside of an intimate relationship with God because this love for God is a direct product of his love for us. As the Apostle John explains, we do not love God in order to get Him to love us, “we love Him because He loved us first” (1 Jn. 4:19). Both Paul and John here then show us that the greatest evidence that God has set His love on you is that you have a deep and sincere love for Him.

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The Christian should have the heart of the Psalmist who sang, “Earth has nothing that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25). The Christian heart should be unwavering in its love for God, and where this love is absent the individual will always be led astray. As Paul wrote to Timothy, it was Demas’ love for the World that led him astray and caused him to desert Paul (2 Tim. 4:10). John in writing to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, talks about their patient endurance through tribulation, their ability to discern false teachers, and their knowledge of the Word, and yet they “abandoned their first love” (Rev. 2:4). They did every aspect of the Christian faith right with the exception of the most important thing, they had forgotten that all of this was to be done because of their love for God. We call out false teachers not to win debates, but because our love for God wants us to protect His truth. We read our Bibles because our love for God drives us to want to know Him more. We pray because our love for God drives us to want to feel His presence more intimately and discern His will more carefully. Every aspect of the Christian life is built on our love for God.

I fully believe that our love for Him is what gives God the greatest glory in our lives. A brief but imperfect analogy (as all analogies to God are) to explain what I mean by this. If I show up one night and tell my wife to get her best dress on because we are going out and she asks why, and I respond with “because I am your husband and it is one of my duties to take you out regularly in order to maintain my status as a good husband,” my wife is not going honored simply by my “duty,” and knowing my wife she might even refuse to go. A far more fitting response would be to say “because I love you and I delight in you more than you could imagine.” That response would give my wife honor because it would mean that my action was based on my overwhelming delight in her rather than an obligatory duty to her. I believe all relationships are built on this concept, even the most important relationship, our relationship with God. The primary response of the Christian must be a love for God, for then we can say boldly “I delight to do your will” (Ps. 40:8).

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