Actually, loving does not take any great effort on our part because it is not something we must put forth great effort to achieve. When God enters our heart, soul, and mind, love is spontaneously produced because He is love. It is a spiritual attainment. It is the result of a cause and the cause is this: God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
This love is not produced by us. No one can love God until he knows that God loves him and we can only love God when we have perceived some reasons for doing so. Each person that has ever been saved never came to God as a lover of God, but as a sinner who had come to believe in God's love for him or her. Our love is connected with this "knowing."
When we realize God's love for us, we become acutely aware of our unworthiness. The more we recognize our own helpless state, the more we understand God's love for us; a love so great that it embraces poor sinner. We love because God first loved us.
God loves us. It is a fact affirmed and validated by the patriarchs, lawgivers, seers, prophets, apostles, teachers, deacons, evangelists. From Genesis to Revelation, a conglomeration of witnesses joined together to make this heavenly announcement: God loves us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died.
But, we cannot claim we love God if we do not love one another; for it is in loving God that we are enabled to love one another, and in loving one another, our love for God is strengthened. Human love is a response to God's love. His love within us creates goodness and transforms the unlovable into the lovable. When this miracle occurs, we discover we love not only others, but ourselves.
No greater claim can any of us make than that we love. Love is a characteristic of those who love God. Love is the great bond of fellowship which binds believers to one another, and to our Lord. We love all men-even our enemies. Like John, we do not claim to love as deeply as we desire to love; we do not claim to love as much as we expect to as we progress in the faith, but we do claim to love. There is no guessing, no speculation, no assumptions, and no inferences.
We Christians stand side by side with John and thousands of others down through the generations to affirm what John declared. That somehow, even in this messed up world, even in times like these when man's inhumanity to man seem to have reached chaotic proportions, we love and we do it because God lives in us and God is love. This is God's eminent challenge to man and one of man's greatest trials.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, will be available soon.
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