Love the God Who Loves You
“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”—MATTHEW 22:37.
1, 2. What may have prompted the question about the greatest commandment?
THE question was evidently hotly disputed among the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Of the more than 600 laws that made up the Mosaic Law, which was the most important? Was it a law that had to do with sacrifice? After all, sacrifices were made both to receive forgiveness of sins and to offer thanks to God. Or might the supreme law be the law on circumcision? That too was important, since circumcision was a sign of the covenant that Jehovah had made with Abraham.—Genesis 17:9-13.
2 On the other hand, conservatives apparently reasoned that since every law that God gave was great—even though some might have seemed to be of lesser importance—it would be wrong to lift any commandment above the others. The Pharisees decided to put the controversial question to Jesus. Perhaps he would say something that might damage his credibility. One of them approached Jesus and asked: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”—Matthew 22:34-36.
3. What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment?
3 The answer Jesus gave has tremendous importance for us today. In his reply, he summed up what always was and always will be the essence of true worship. Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” Though the Pharisee asked for just one commandment, Jesus gave him another. Quoting from Leviticus 19:18, he said: “The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus then indicated that these two laws embraced the whole of pure worship. Forestalling any attempt to get him to list in order of importance the other laws, he concluded: “On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) In this article, we will consider the greatest of these two commandments. Why must we love God? How do we show that we do? And how can we develop such love? It is vital to know the answers to these questions, for to please Jehovah, we must love him with all our heart, soul, and mind.
The Importance of Love
4, 5. (a) Why was the Pharisee not surprised by what Jesus said? (b) What is worth more to God than sacrifices and offerings?
4 It seems that the Pharisee who questioned Jesus was neither shocked nor surprised by the answer he received. He knew that love of God was an essential aspect of true worship, though many failed to display it. In the synagogues, it was the custom to recite aloud the Shema, or confession of faith, and this included the passage found at Deuteronomy 6:4-9, from which Jesus quoted. According to the parallel account in Mark, the Pharisee then said to Jesus: “Teacher, you well said in line with truth, ‘He is One, and there is no other than He’; and this loving him with one’s whole heart and with one’s whole understanding and with one’s whole strength and this loving one’s neighbor as oneself is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”—Mark 12:32, 33.
5 Indeed, while burnt offerings and sacrifices were required by the Law, what really matters to God is the loving heart condition of his servants. A sparrow offered to God in love and devotion was worth more to him than thousands of rams given with a wrong motive. (Micah 6:6-8) Recall the account of the needy widow whom Jesus observed at the temple in Jerusalem. The two small coins she placed in the treasury chest could not buy even a single sparrow. Yet, that contribution, given with heartfelt love for Jehovah, meant more to him than the large donations given by the wealthy out of their surplus. (Mark 12:41-44) How encouraging to know that Jehovah values most what we can all express no matter what our circumstances—our love for him!
6. What did Paul write about the importance of love?
6 Stressing the importance of love in true worship, the apostle Paul wrote: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Clearly, love is essential if our worship is to be pleasing to God. How, though, do we show our love for Jehovah?
How We Show Our Love for Jehovah
7, 8. How can we show our love for Jehovah?
7 Many believe that love is an emotion over which we have little control; people speak of falling in love. Yet, real love is not just something we feel. It is characterized and defined by action, not sentiment. The Bible refers to love as “a surpassing way” and as something we “pursue.” (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1) Christians are encouraged to love, not only “in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:18.
8 Love of God impels us to do what is pleasing to him and to defend and uphold his sovereignty, by both words and deeds. It moves us to avoid loving the world and its ungodly ways. (1 John 2:15, 16) Those who love God hate what is bad. (Psalm 97:10) Love of God also involves love of neighbor, which we will discuss in the next article. Furthermore, love of God requires our obedience. The Bible says: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.
9. How did Jesus demonstrate his love for God?
9 Jesus demonstrated perfectly what it means to love God. Love moved him to leave his heavenly home and to dwell on earth as a man. It impelled him to glorify his Father by the things he did and taught. Love moved him to be “obedient as far as death.” (Philippians 2:8) That obedience—an expression of his love—opened the way for faithful ones to have a righteous standing before God. Paul wrote: “Through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person [Christ Jesus] many will be constituted righteous.”—Romans 5:19.
10. Why does love for God involve obedience?
10 Like Jesus, we show our love by being obedient to God. “This is what love means,” writes Jesus’ beloved apostle John, “that we go on walking according to his commandments.” (2 John 6) Those who truly love Jehovah long for his guidance. Recognizing that they cannot successfully direct their own steps, they trust in God’s wisdom and submit to his loving direction. (Jeremiah 10:23) They are like the noble-minded ones in ancient Beroea who accepted God’s message with “eagerness of mind,” having a keen desire to do the will of God. (Acts 17:11) They carefully examined the Scriptures to understand the will of God more fully, which helped them express love in further acts of obedience.
11. What does it mean to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength?
11 As Jesus said, love for God involves our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:30) Such love emanates from the heart, involving our feelings, desires, and inmost thoughts, and we fervently desire to please Jehovah. We also love with our mind. Our devotion is not blind; we have come to know Jehovah—his qualities, standards, and purposes. We use our soul, our whole being and the life we possess, to serve and praise him. And we use our strength to that end as well.
Why We Should Love Jehovah
12. Why does God require that we love him?
12 One reason we should love Jehovah is that he requires us to reflect his qualities. God is both the source and the supreme example of love. “God is love,” wrote the inspired apostle John. (1 John 4:8) Humans were created in God’s image; we were designed to love. In fact, Jehovah’s sovereignty is based on love. He wants as his subjects those who serve him because they both love and desire his righteous way of ruling. Really, love is essential for the peace and harmony of all creation.
13. (a) Why were the Israelites told: “Love Jehovah your God”? (b) Why is it reasonable that Jehovah expects us to love him?
13 Another reason for loving Jehovah is that we appreciate what he has done for us. Recall that Jesus said to the Jews: “You must love Jehovah your God.” They were not expected to love a divine being who was distant and unknown. They were to love the Person who had revealed his love to them. Jehovah was their God. He was the One who brought them out of Egypt into the Promised Land, the One who protected, sustained, and cherished them, the One who disciplined them in love. And today, Jehovah is our God, the one who gave his Son as a ransom that we might have everlasting life. How reasonable it is that Jehovah expects us to love him in return! Our love is a responsive love; we are asked to love the God who loves us. Our love is for the One who “first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
14. In what way is Jehovah’s love like that of a loving parent?
14 Jehovah’s love for mankind is like that of a loving parent for his children. Though imperfect, loving parents toil for years in caring for their children, doing so at great sacrifice materially and otherwise. Parents instruct, encourage, support, and discipline their children because they want them to be happy and to flourish. What do parents desire in return? They want their children to love them and to take to heart what they have imparted to the children for their good. Is it not reasonable that our perfect heavenly Father expects us to show loving appreciation for all that he has done for us?
Cultivating Love for God
15. What is the first step in cultivating love for God?
15 We have neither seen God nor heard his voice. (John 1:18) Yet, he invites us to enter into a loving relationship with him. (James 4:8) How can we do that? The first step toward loving anyone is to take in knowledge of that one; it is hard to feel deep affection for someone we do not know. Jehovah has provided his Word, the Bible, so that we can learn about him. That is why Jehovah, through his organization, encourages us to read the Bible regularly. It is the Bible that teaches us about God, his qualities, his personality, as well as his dealings with people over thousands of years. As we meditate on such accounts, our appreciation and love for him will grow.—Romans 15:4.
16. How does reflecting on Jesus’ ministry enhance our love for God?
16 A primary way that we can grow in our love for Jehovah is to reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus. After all, Jesus mirrored his Father so perfectly that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Are you not touched by the compassion Jesus showed in restoring life to the only son of a widow? (Luke 7:11-15) Is it not appealing to know that he—the Son of God and the greatest man who ever lived—humbly washed the feet of his disciples? (John 13:3-5) Does it not move you to know that though he was greater and wiser than any other man, he made himself approachable to all, including children? (Mark 10:13, 14) As we meditate appreciatively upon these things, we become like the Christians about whom Peter wrote: “Though you never saw [Jesus], you love him.” (1 Peter 1:8) As our love for Jesus grows, so does our love for Jehovah.
17, 18. Meditating on what loving provisions of Jehovah can make our love for him grow?
17 Another way that we can grow in our love for God is to meditate on the abundant loving provisions he has made to let us enjoy life—the beauty of creation, the endless variety of delicious things to eat, the warm companionship of good friends, as well as countless other delights that give us pleasure and satisfaction. (Acts 14:17) The more we learn about our God, the more reasons we have to appreciate his boundless goodness and generosity. Think about all the things that Jehovah has done for you personally. Do you not agree that he deserves your love?
18 Among the many gifts from God is the opportunity we have to approach him in prayer at any time, knowing that the “Hearer of prayer” listens to us. (Psalm 65:2) Jehovah has delegated to his beloved Son the authority both to rule and to judge. However, he does not delegate to others, including his Son, the hearing of prayers. He personally listens to our prayers. The loving, personal concern that Jehovah thus shows draws us close to him.
19. What promises of Jehovah draw us to him?
19 We are also drawn to Jehovah when we consider what he has in store for humankind. He has promised to bring an end to sickness, sorrow, and death. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Once mankind is brought to perfection, no one will suffer depression, discouragement, or tragedy. Hunger, poverty, and war will be no more. (Psalm 46:9; 72:16) The earth will be transformed into a paradise. (Luke 23:43) Jehovah will bring these blessings, not because he has to, but because he loves us.
20. What did Moses say about the benefits of loving Jehovah?
20 There are, therefore, compelling reasons to love our God and to let that love grow. Will you continue to strengthen your love for God, allowing him to direct your ways? The choice is up to you. Moses recognized the benefits of cultivating and maintaining love for Jehovah. To the Israelites of long ago, Moses said: “You must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.”—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
Do You Recall?
• Why is it essential that we love Jehovah?
• How can we show our love for God?
• What reasons do we have for loving Jehovah?
• How can we cultivate the love of God?
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Jehovah truly values what we can all express—our love for him
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“He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”—John 14:9