Have you ever even thought about that question? Seriously, pause for just a moment and ponder this. What is it that prompts you to love God, to follow after Him, and ultimately to obey Him? Is it the promise of a divine payoff in the end that compels you to bow your head before each meal? Is it a superstitious hope that pushes you to do good, to be good, and to lead a good life in order to receive God’s blessings and to avoid His judgment? Do you love Him so that you’ll be on the receiving end of all of His goodness? What is it that motivates you to love God?
To be honest, this is a question that has been brewing inside of me, and I’ve found myself wrestling through the many possible answers as I perform this self-examination. Why do I love God? I mean, really? Do I love Him to avoid Hell? Is He nothing more to me than a “Get Out of Jail Free” card? Am I drawn to love and obedience for no other reason than to receive His blessings? These are questions that every single one of us must wrestle through and come to a conclusion on. Every last one of us must determine not only what we believe but why we believe it. Why do you love God? Your motivation matters; perhaps, more than you know.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19
Bam! There it is right there. If there is any other underlying motive to our love for God other than the fact that He loved us first, our motivation is impure. To know God is to love Him, and to love Him is to know Him. When we finally come to grasp what His sacrifice meant for us, that is the moment that pure love can flow from our hearts. It is His love for us first that compels us to love Him in return. Our bent toward sin, selfishness, and pride would have forever hindered us from ever choosing Him on our own, but then He chose to come to us, in humility, wrapped in flesh, in the form of a poor baby, living a sinless life, choosing an unimaginable death that pardoned you and I once and for all, and through His resurrection He conquered sin and death forever. It is His love alone, extended towards us first that compels us to love Him in return. Not the promise of His blessings. Not the eternal rewards. Not the salvation. Simply, His love. Everything else is the overflow, the icing on the cake, the above and beyond. His love drew us towards repentance and towards Himself. This is love in its purest form, that we love Him in return for His love for us.
This is a serious question that you and I must ask ourselves today. What motivates you to love God? If it’s something other than His steadfast love for you, your heart and your gaze are misplaced. Because our capacity to love Him is only through His never-ending, unconditional, irreversible love for us first. Do you know the lengths, the heights, the depths, and the width of His matchless love for you? This love, my friends, is all you need to love Him in return.