(This is one of the “60 Faith Questions I Hope to Answer Before My Kids Leave Home.” I’m going to be answering several of them over time. This is the first post in the series.)
I love fall.
Golden leaves, pumpkins, haystacks and apples give me warm fuzzies. Every year I decorate our home for Fall as soon as Labor Day is over. Out pop my orange and black pumpkin slippers. Things like pumpkin spice coffee appear on my shopping list without a second thought. Last week I even started my first Pinterest board: “Recipes for Fall.”
In the midst of my little Fall utopia, I had a deep, scary thought last week: What if I don’t really love God? After all, my first Pinterest board was dedicated to fall recipes, not to God. I don’t have slippers with crosses, and I currently have far more pumpkins in my house than decorative reminders of faith. Is it possible that I’m more passionate about something as simple as Fall than I am about God?
If there is anything I learned from years of childhood Sunday School, it was that I’m supposed to love God. I don’t recall anyone ever explaining what it would mean, however, to love a Being whom I can’t experience like anything or anyone else on earth. I, like most people, was therefore left to apply my earthly understanding of love to how I should relate to God.
When we love earthly things or other humans, that love is primarily based on intensity of feeling. I will humbly admit that I don’t always feel intensely about God. In fact, in times when I’m feeling particularly mild about God, I start having doubts. I assume those dampened feelings point to a problem with God even though it is only my feelings that change, not Him.
But is that what love for God is all about? Maintaining intense, warm fuzzies? I had to do a little Bible study on the topic.
Matthew 22:37-39 is a cornerstone verse for understanding the nature and importance of loving God. Jesus said:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
We can gain a much deeper understanding of what it means to love God with some context from the original Greek (I have not studied Greek personally – this information is from my study on the topic).
The Greek word for “love” used in this verse is the verb agapao. To agapao something means to completely give ourselves over to it.
To “agapao” something has nothing to do with warm fuzzies, or even intense feelings. It’s about what you’re committed to. It’s about what comes first in your life. It’s about a choice.
This isn’t splitting literary hairs. It makes a monumental difference in how we understand our calling to love God. The Bible makes it explicitly clear that we can agapao things other than God and that in doing so we are working against His desires for us. To Agapao is clearly a choice:
- John 3:19: “…Light has come into the world, but people loved (agapao) darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
- John 12:43: “For they loved (agapao) human praise more than praise from God.”
- Luke 11:43: “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love (agapao) the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.”
- 1 John 2:15: “Do not love (agapao) the world or anything in the world.”
Many people believe in God, and many people “love” God in theory. That’s easy. Doing God’s will by committing our whole lives to Him is far more difficult. But feeling love without exhibiting commitment is meaningless.
How critical that our kids understand what loving God is really about!
It’s choosing to be committed when circumstances make it tough.
It’s choosing to be committed without every question being answered.
It’s choosing to be committed even when we don’t feel like it, because love for God is about much more than nice feelings.
Conversation starter: Ask your kids, “What does it mean to love God? How can we know if we love God? How does God know if we love Him?” If they are old enough, you can get into the discussion of Greek words. Otherwise, it’s a great opportunity to talk about the difference between simple feelings and true commitment (e.g., prayer, Bible study, worship, service, evangelism).
Have you ever wondered if you really love God?