Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Does God's command to Love Him, by it's very existance, render it an impossibility?

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, and some of what we discussed was Jesus' summing up the commandments in "Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul and mind and your neighbour as yourself" and His follow up command with "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you". Both paraphrased, and sorry for no reference.

But we got talking about this, and I said in part that I don't believe that it's possible to command someone to love you. The very notion of (true) love, is that it happens without command or expectations. And if we were to think of any relationship where one person commands the other to love them, it would be a very unhealthy relationship indeed.

That was more or less the gist of what I said, but my friend didn't say too much about it then. This morning though, I received an email with his thoughts on this topic. I will post them below and then after that, I'll give my reply - which is rather long and deviates a little but I think in the end gives a very good starting point for where I find myself at the moment in my understanding of God and how I (we) relate to Him, and in some ways - what I believe His ideal plan for humanity is.

Again - Comments are more than encouraged, as this is something that is very fresh to me, and I am very eager to discuss and work through these issues with whoever wishes to discuss them...

I was thinking about the question, can you command somebody to love you?

I had these thoughts:

1. Yes, because God already has issued a command to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind and strength

2. Yes, because Jesus said, a new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you

3. There must be a reason that God /Jesus issues such commands: possibly ...............................

a. To communicate the boundaries within which God designed us to live full lives

b. To provoke us to think about it so deeply that we are convicted by the Holy Spirit of gaps in our hearts or minds or capacity to make wise choices

c. To allow the Holy Spirit to draw us to the Father (The Word of God is living and active ..........)

Thee are probably other reasons but I end up with the conclusion that God has commanded (that does not set a precedent for people to command other people) that we love Him, therefore I take note of that which limits my love and make wise choices to break through those limits into John 10:10’s life in abundance.

There are some started thoughts not a theological thesis, but they challenge me.

This was my reply...

In response to your thoughts.. I'm not sure that I agree 100%. I'm hesitant to argue something that doesn't have necessarily have a well defined answer.. but I do believe that this particular point is of paramount importance to our understanding of who God is and how we relate to him. In some ways, I think this might just be an issue of semantics, but I also feel there is a lot more to it than just words.

I hear what you are saying, however I'm hesitant to believe that God would ever command someone to love him (in the sense of a commandment or rule).

I still feel that a commandment to love in itself negates the ability to love and rather it lends itself towards a very unhealthy and manipulative relationship. None of which I believe is God's heart.

Right through the biblical history of mankind, I see God's heart is for a people who love Him. He made Adam and Eve for relationship. When that broke down, he chose for himself a people. When they rejected him, and chose Moses and then later the kings as mediators, you can sense God's pain in that rejection. Then He sent himself to earth and confined Himself to the constraints of our humanity and made the greatest sacrifice possible to restore that relationship. I am extremely hesitant to presume that in this utmost of expressions of love, God would then command us to love Him?

The way I see it - is that the command to love was a figure of speech - I see it as Jesus saying - in the old covenant, these are the hundreds of laws I expected you to follow - but in this new covenant, all I want is your love - I don't expect anything more.

I don't know the specific scriptures, but I believe there are sufficient supporting scriptures for this. I think it was Paul who spoke about us loving him because he first loved us. I don't think that's an intangible idea that calls us to love this God because he loves us, I think that it is our growing understanding of how much He really loves us that enables us to love Him. There are many places in the gospels and I think the letters that speaks about things we 'should' do, but then goes on to say that we can't achieve it without God's intervention..

So I think that even if God has 'commanded' us to love him it's a command that we can't complete without Him doing it in us.

I'm fast realising that unless we are specifically doing something that God has called us to, we're labouring in vain.

I still don' see how it is possible to love someone as Jesus loved us - or His disciples - without Him doing the work within us.

I don't see that God relates to us (when on a father/friend/brother/bridegroom level) that is anything but way more than we can think or conceive of the 'perfect' manner of relationship that we could have with another human. Jesus often says 'how much more' in the context of human relationships and how God interacts with us. He lived out God's love for mankind, and it was through that relationship that the humans around him were drawn to know and love him.

I cannot conceive that God would really command anyone to love Him and actually mean it as a command (in the way we understand it - something that we have to do to achieve acceptance or acknowledgement). If this was His goal, then he could easily have created a bunch of beings that loved him as a default setting - in some ways that would have been better than creating beings who have the freedom not to love him in the semblance of choice, and then command them to love him.

Is it good to love God? YES! Is it what we were created to do? YES! Is it something that God longs for with everything in him? YES, I believe so.

But I struggle to see how love can be real and untainted when it is a command or action that we are required to do.

Regarding your possible reasons for these commands:
a. I don't think that we can live full lives outside of God's love. But I also don't think we can live full lives when we see loving God as a command we have to strive to live up to. I think that knowing and loving God is something we are called to, and something that we were made for - and that it is a real and tangible relationship which is defined in knowing Him.

b. I think it's the other way round. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit that will quicken things in our hearts that will point us more and more towards God. And through this process of truly understanding His love for us, we will grow in our love and understanding of Him.

c. Again, I think that it's the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father that enables us to love Him, not actioning the command to love him that enables the Holy Spirit to draw us. I really struggle to see love as something we are forced or required to do. As much as love is an action - it is so much more than that! Love presumes relationship, and no healthy loving relationship is defined by rules or regulations or actions that should or shouldn't be accomplished. A truly healthy relationship is surely defined by untainted boundless love for each person in the relationship. It is for the longing for the betterment of the other person. It is in all it's glory Corinthians 13. And that is how God sees and behaves towards us. And it is the revelation of that which empowers us to behave in a reciprocal manner with God and with those around us.

I believe it was God in Jesus and Jesus' understanding of God's love for Him that enabled Him to love us as much as He did.
God never commanded Jesus to love Him, it was a natural process, not a contrived one.

I hope I'm making sense. And sorry if I sound passionate. It is something that is very close to my heart, and something that I long for everyone else to have a similar revelation of.

I think there's more to this than what I've said. There's also much more to my thought process in getting to this place. Where I am at the moment - is I'm slowly experiencing more and more of God's love for me, and a lot of my previous preconceptions are falling away. There has been so much that was in my spirit that I couldn't bring together with my previous world view, but all of a sudden, it's as if the veil has fallen and I'm seeing things clearer. I'm starting to see God once more as the author and finisher of my faith. I'm better understanding the promise that Jesus will continue the work He started in me, and that I (grow to) love Him, as (I comprehend how much) He loves me.

I've realised it's not about works or actions or things. That it's not about doing so much as it is about being. That I shouldn't busy myself with things I think (or have been told by others) to do to be a better christian - as even my best works are as dirty rags - but rather as I am drawn closer to God and as my relationship with Him grows closer, I will end up doing what I see my Father do.

I don't have all the answers, but I'm not too worried. I have sufficient to see the next few steps ahead, and I firmly believe my Dad is there with me to guide me along the way. This is a journey and it's not something I'm destined to get right first time every time. I think for the longest time I've been caught up in 'doing stuff' - or feeling condemned when I wasn't 'doing stuff', but in it all I never knew Jesus. I have been so scared of that verse where Jesus says to people who confessed that they did all these things in His name - that he never KNEW them. It's this and a growing realisation that relationship is not only possible, it's my destiny, that has helped me start to let go of the things that hinder, and run hard for the prize.

When the prize is the deepest relationship with Jesus/Dad/Spirit that I can have, running the race, and keeping my eyes on that prize only get's easier and easier the closer I get.

I know I've digressed a little - but this has been good for me to write :) - I'm at a place at the moment where I have very little nailed down, the paint is still fresh, and although I feel I have the revelation in my heart, the words in my head are still taking a while to form - and writing it out like this has been very helpful to me! :) I hope it helps you understand in part where I am at and gives some context for the way I am beginning to understand how the love commandment and everything else fits together...

That was where I ended off.. I know this is a mighty chunk of words, but I really look forward to any comments or thoughts you might have on this...



Sean said...

Hey Bro, I've responded on

Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Love your work...

brettfish said...

hey man
good that you're doing this
wish i had more time to spend on blogs and reading and responding and stuff but i generally choose to spend my time on other stuff but enjoyed reading

in a nutshell i think its semantics cos i think i pretty much totally agree with you but dont think it changes anything - does God command us to love Him? yes, does He force us to love Him? no, and i think thats more what you're addressing...

command sounds like something we cant not do and yet we obviously can choose not to love God and so i think its really just word usage for the most part - i love where Paul speaks of Christs love compelling him, cos its a sense of being forces but not by someone with a stick but by the very amazingness of the love itself forcing... as in i cant not!!!

love brett

Marc said...

Hey Cam,

I took a quick overview and I think i got the jist of everything ... will read in more detail later when time permits! I think it is great what you are doing. We ALL need to spend more time getting to know our Father better and His plans, purposes and desires ... The biggest mind-bend is that he chooses imperfect us to partner with him in the outworking of these things!!!
"He is what matters, its His glory and His kingdom that matter - this is why I am here and this is what I am living for!"

Here is a book that I would highly recommend relating to the topic of God commanding us to love Him:

"What Jesus demands of the world" - John Piper

Here is a link to briefly what its about:


Love Marc (Thom by the way)

Ethan Cornelius said...

Hi Cam,
I'm a close friend of Thys and he pointed me toward your blog. I've been reading through your writings today, and this one in particular caught my attention. I've really been struggling with this question lately, maybe even to a further extreme than your blog deals with it. Here's my problem:
I feel like I do have a choice whether or not to love and follow God. However, it's a pretty crummy choice. What sort of love would it be if I told my wife "you can love me or not love me, it's your choice. I want you to choose to love me so I know your love is real and we can have a good life together. If you choose not to love me, that will hurt me but ultimately it is your decision. By the way, if you choose not to love me, I'm going to cast you into a lake of fire where you can burn forever." That's where I'm really hung up... I feel like that is the choice God has given us. How can there be any true love of God when the alternative to loving him is eternal damnation? What sort of loving being offers his creation a choice like that?
Anyway... that's what I've really been struggling with. I appreciate your blog and look forward to more posts, and if you have any input about my comment I would definitely welcome it.
Ethan Cornelius

Marc said...

Hey Ethan,

Maybe you will welcome my two cents worth.
What is important to remember is that its not that i choose to love God that opens the relationship with him. We ALL (everyone) have sinned and by definition sin is against God. This sin separates us from God ... His word clearly says "The penalty for sin is death". God is loving yes, but he is also just. So its not a choice between loving God or going to hell, the penalty for my sin is death. God lovingly made a way for us back to him and to bypass this penalty ... His son Jesus Christ, and by putting my trust in him and believing that he paid the penalty for my sin by dying on the cross and conquering death, this gives me an open door to God and a real relationship with Him. Because God is so loving he gave His only son - We actually deserve death and hell, but because God loves us He made a way past that to Him ... We just have to belive that the way, Jesus, is true and put our trust in Him ... Thats the best deal ever if you ask me!

Hope this helps.


Cam said...

Hi Ethan,

sorry for the delay - I have something I want to add, I'm just not sure I have the time now.. but I'll try reply as soon as I can..

Cam said...

Hi Ethan,

I have responded in my latest blog post here.

Sorry for not continuing it here, but my reply was just too long to fit into a comment area - and I felt it might be good to get my thoughts down as a decent post - so maybe carry on with your replies there, if you like..