Yesterday’s sermon explored Jesus’ familiar Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told the story as part of a conversation with a “lawyer” (a teacher of Torah, the Law of Moses). Early in that conversation, Jesus and the teacher agreed with each other about the heart of faith: love for God and love for neighbor.
I’ve been thinking more about the remarkable command-invitation to love God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all you are.” The love God seeks from us is an echo of, a response to, God’s astonishing love for us. God loves us lavishly, takes delight in us, and nurtures us tenderly toward wholeness. God’s love is a gift which enters our brokenness to heal it, confronts our sinfulness to forgive it, and embraces our shame to overcome it. It inspires our dreams, energizes our strengths, and intensifies our joys. It is a breathtaking marvel: God loves us here and now, as we are, without condition.
God longs for our love in return.
It’s crucial, therefore, that those of us who talk about God do so in ways that make it clear the we have a God who is lovable. Dallas Willard put it well:
The acid test for any theology is this: Is the God presented one that may be loved, heart, soul, mind, and strength? If the thoughtful, honest answer is “Not really,” then we need to look elsewhere or deeper. It does not really matter how sophisticated intellectually or doctrinally our approach is. If it fails to set a lovable God—a radiant, happy, friendly, accessible and totally competent being—before ordinary people, we have gone wrong. We should not keep going in the same direction, but turn around and take another road. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p. 329)