“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV
This familiar passage of Scripture reveals to each one of us the extent of God’s love on a personal level. To think that God cares so much about our eternal destiny that he would send Jesus directly to us is beyond our full comprehension. Once we begin to grasp the depth of his love, we realize the magnitude of a relationship with God. We become aware of the ways that God shows his love day by day.
As we search further in Scripture, we note in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from his love. His unconditional love becomes more evident as we draw nearer to him. As we lean on him, his hands of compassion and grace are extended offering himself as a personal gift.
We find ourselves giddy at times thinking about his unconditional love. We look forward to each moment to bask in his grace as we absorb God’s love like a sponge. We carry this mental picture of dancing around in a meadow dotted with multicolored flowers as the sun shines warming our hearts. We catch the rays of his love and hold it close to our soul.
With God’s love comes truth and accountability. Each of us is responsible before God for our words and actions. If we do not follow God’s ways, there will be consequences. The consequences are God’s tough love toward us.
In Galatians 6:7-8 we read, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
When the Israelites would stray from God, he would send prophets to warn them about their wicked ways. If they did not turn from their sin back to God, he gave consequences like death and captivity.
Our relationship with God is not just one-sided. It is to be a mutual relationship. He expects us to love him back not out of obligation but because of a burning desire within.
¯ Do we stop to think about how much we are loving God and in what ways?
¯ Are our thoughts consumed with loving him back?
¯ Do we understand what encompasses loving God?
¯ Do we realize that obedience to God’s Word is part of loving him?
¯ Do we understand how much God desires for us to love him with all of our being?
¯ How do we love someone who knows our deepest thoughts and secrets?
Loving God is not a quick “I love you, God”, and then running off and doing our own thing. It isn’t leaving him a note on the counter hoping he will read it. It isn’t just going to church every Sunday.
Jesus himself teaches us in Matthew 22:35-40 how we are to love God.
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Every part of our being is to be actively engaged in loving God. God first loves us. We receive it. Then his love flows through us to others. Our words and actions toward others will be the evidence.
People we meet no longer are invisible to us. Our sensitivity to others’ needs becomes heightened. We become more aware of what lies below the surface of the mask they wear. Some needs may be more obvious such as food, clothing, and shelter. Others may be emotional pain, lack of self-worth, grief, abuse, and distrust. They may just need a listening ear and a caring relationship.
Filling the needs of others is an act of loving God. For in Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Let’s go back to the verse in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second part of the Scripture verse is often overlooked. We have a hard time understanding what that means. Taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is critical. Each of us is to be a good steward of the life God has given us. We are not to become self-absorbed but self-caring.
¯ Self-caring is being in touch with what is going on inside our heart, mind, and soul.
¯ Self-caring involves putting boundaries in place in order to not overextend ourselves in situations or relationships.
¯ It is not allowing someone to destroy us physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
¯ Self-caring is learning how to recognize people who are “toxic” and developing tools to handle destructive relationships.
¯ Taking time to relax, enjoy the beauty of nature, having fun, and surrounding ourselves with loving relationships become another area we need to incorporate in our lives.
Self-caring and keeping our focus on the one who created us minimizes our anxieties, our fears, and directs our attention to God who is in control no matter the circumstances. His embrace is always available. Fall into the arms of God and put your head on his chest for he cares for you.
By Paula Silva
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