Most of us can comfortably say that we love our parents. Whether we have had only one or fortunate enough to have both parents, there is likely an inherent or natural love that we have that nothing or no one could compare. No one should have to tell us ‘you should love your mother’, or ‘you better love your father.’ If we’ve had a decent childhood, that statement would never have to be made.
But the Bible tells us that the most important commandment that was given to us was a commandment to love. And not just to love anybody, but to love God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 to “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.” You may wonder, ‘I thought I already loved God with a natural love, like I love my mother or my father?’ Well, we should, but often by the lives we live, we choose not to love God. If we did, we would make better choices and not choose to do things our own way, which often leads us to sin. This is why we must choose to love God, and driven by our love for Him, choose to live our lives His way.
Well what happens? Where do we go off-track? What seems to happen with us at times is that we, in essence, carve out two separate lives for ourselves. We live one way part of the time, and we live another way the other part of the time. We’re great on Sunday morning and maybe even Sunday afternoon—allowing God to sit on the throne of our lives. Yet by Monday morning, we’re back to living the way we like to live—with ‘self’ on the throne!
When we love God with all of our heart, we begin to develop desires and cultivate our wishes into what God likes. We change our character into one that strives to be more like Him. When we love God with all of our soul, we do the things that the Holy Spirit leads us to do. We take ourselves out of the picture, with our own selfish desires, and we allow the Lord to guide our actions into what He wants. And when we love God with our entire mind, we constantly think about things the way God thinks about them. We make our decisions based on what we believe will make Him happy.
If you went to a beautiful neighborhood and drove up to the largest, most grandiose house in that neighborhood, you may be intrigued by what you see. It may be intricately built with a unique design, possess a well-manicured lawn, and have two large, sophisticated doors that invite you to come inside. You may say to yourself, ‘wow, that’s the most stunning house I’ve ever seen…I wonder what it looks like on the inside!’ If the owner then walked outside and invited you to come inside, you may jump at the chance to go in and take a peek.
But what if when you got inside, things were not as you imagined them to be? You expected to see everything in its proper place, just as it had been on the outside, but what if what your eyes see is shocking? What if everything was a mess and there were clothes all on the floor? What if the dog had left his mark everywhere and if the owner himself—who you may have thought to be a neat person by the appearance of his house—turned out to be rude, arrogant, and just not the same person who just invited you in? Your impression of that house would quickly change, and you would likely never want to return.
If this startles you, this is exactly the hypocrisy that God sees in us at times. We appear at times to do all the right things—go to church, read our Bibles, maybe even offer prayer for a friend. But the lives we live the majority of the time are in direct opposition to the life God wants for us. That ‘house’ we portray may fool our fellow man into believing we are all for God, but God looks at the inside of us and he sees the mess we have on the inside. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” He sees the refuse and rebellion from our sin. He sees the rude, arrogant way we treat people sometimes. And he sees the ‘filthy rags’ we truly are when we think no one is looking.
So how do we resolve this quandary? What do we do? If we choose to love God, as this is the first and greatest commandment, we must clean our lives up and stop this hypocrisy. Just as we naturally love our mother or father, we can begin to ‘naturally’ love God by the choices we make, which eventually molds the life we live. When we do this, we are on our way to true love—the love that is only found in God and Christ Jesus.