Do We Love God or Love What He Did?

Often, when I’m home, my mom cooks for me. I love it, especially when it’s tuna and noodles. (Please don’t judge me.) In fact, she has done a lot of things for me over the years that I have loved. She has done my laundry, completed my taxes, and even cleaned my room—seriously mom, God bless you.

I have loved and appreciated so many things that my mother has done, and continues to do for me. Yet, amidst all of this loving of things done, it still remains to be said whether or not I actually love my mother. Could it be that I can go on loving all that she has done for me without having genuinely loved her? I often wonder if this same sort of scenario applies to our relationship with God. In other words, do we love Him, or do we just love what He did?

If your experience with the church is anything like mine—which has been mostly protestant and relatively conservative—then there is a chance that much was made of what God did on the cross, or maybe even on what He continues to do today, but little seems to be said about who God is. Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about what God has done and how God has (and continues to) act on the behalf of His people. It is important.

We do, after all, worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who rescued His people from the yoke of slavery in Egypt. God is inextricably tied to what He does, but to love only those actions falls short of loving the God who has performed them. What if you instead began to love God Himself? What if you became wrapped up in the God who is love? What if you took a cue from Paul and stared deeply into the person of Jesus, who reveals God’s glory and image, and became transformed into that very same glory and image in the process (2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6)? What if we talked just as much about who God is and allowed Him to capture our affections as much as we passionately talk about Christ’s death on a cross (which is of course is also crucial and important)? So again I raise the question: Do you love God, or do you just love what He did for you?

God, just like my mother, has sifted through and cleaned a lot of my dirty laundry—for which I am grateful—but God, just like my mother, is loved for reasons far beyond this. He Himself is beautiful, self-giving love. And the more I have stared intently into this God, and let who He is wash over me and saturate me from the inside out, the more I’ve come to simply love Him. Honestly, this has changed and transformed me far more than anything else, and I know it has the power to do the same for you. Simply loving what He has done is not enough. When thinking and speaking about what God has done fails to lead us to love Him more richly, it has been done in vain.  

I love what my mother has done for me. I am grateful for all of it. But more than that, I love her. I love who she is. I love her even when she doesn’t do my taxes or laundry. More than that, I know all of this is true when it comes to how she thinks of me, and this mutual exchange of love for one another is what we are invited to partake in with both God and others. We are not called to love each other or God for what they have done. We are called to love God and others because this is exactly who God is and what He does. Indeed, the entirety of the law and prophets can be summed up as this, love God and love one another.

With this in mind, perhaps after you’ve done this you can set down your phone or computer (a scary thought I know), open up one of the Gospels, and just read—but this time read with an agenda. Watch Jesus closely. See how He acts, listen to what He says, place yourself in the story. Engage with the one who perfectly shows us the Father (Heb. 1:3; Jn. 14:9) and allow yourself to discover a God who not only does beautiful things, but is Himself beatiful.

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Curtis Snell

I am first and foremost someone who is trying to follow the example and teachings of Jesus. I serve on the pastoral staff of a church in Iowa and I love writing, reading, and my dog Pepper.

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