Last week we looked in-depth at what love is. We examined what love is and even sought some implications for what the term means in our lives. We determined that as Paul talks about love he is talking about the agape love, or the unconditional love God has for us and we should have for God. I talked that we should just love with no strings attached or anything. Love should be the foundation of our whole faith. A faith that is created out of God’s love for us and it is continued by our love for God and then our echoing of that love to others.
Well as we continue to look at these teachings of Paul we are going to hang out on love for another week, because as we saw last week…love is so important. We are going to examine our love towards God. Last week we looked a lot at our love towards others and this week we are going to examine what Paul says about our love towards God. What does it mean fro us to love God? What does our love for God look like? And how do we express our love to God?
So lets start at the beginning. Before we can talk about our love for God it is important to start of with noting God’s love for us. This leading to our reciprocally love for God.
To start we believe in a God who whole-heartedly loves us. Loves every single one of us. How do we know this? We read throughout scripture of God’s continued actions that shows his love towards us. The fact that God even created the Earth and created the human beings on it is an act of love. A God who wanted someone to love so he created a people to love him. A people whom he could love and a people who would return that love. A God who sent his son to give his life for us. A God who gave us the Holy Spirit and the promise to always be with us.
Our personal journey in fact starts with God loving us. In fact the writer of 1 John even says that. In 1 John 4:19 we read, “We love because he first loved us.” The author of 1 John noting the fact that God first loved us. It all began with God giving us love. With God showing us how much he cares about us. From that outpouring of love we have been given the ability to love in return. Because of all that God has done out of love for us we are able to reciprocate that love back.
The next thing is that God’s love for us is unconditional. Not only does God love us, but that love is without condition. The are no terms or stipulations. It is not love…unless you are different or have done something wrong. It is not even love for only specific people. God’s love is undeserved and unmerited and we receive it without question. We receive it before anything in our lives. As we talked a month or so about grace we talked about how God’s love work through us. Through different parts of our journey, and in different situations in our lives. But the point of that is that God’s love is always there no matter the deepest or darkest pits we are in.
So where do we go from here? We know that God loves us, but what does that mean for us…besides the fact that we are loved? Well we have to love God back.
In a way we are indebted in love, but what greater debt is there to have. We all understand debt. For me I understand debt really well. After four years of college and three years of graduate school I have great amounts of debt. Debt in fact can be a debilitating circumstance to be in. To have to owe someone anything can take a true burden upon our lives. Debt has become associated with bad things in our society.
However, this debt, if we want to call it that, we have towards God should not be viewed as something that is a burden or something that is bad. This debt that we have towards God is a debt of love. In exchange for God’s love towards us he simply wants our love in return. This should not be a burden, because God loves us. However, the reason I have used the word debt is because we often make it into something difficult. We allow things of the world to disrupt our relationship with God. We allow the world to try and break us up. To try and separate us. We make our love for God into a burden.
Now in using the word debt it sounds like we are forced to love love God. However we are not forced…God gave us free will do choose as we please. But we do owe God our love. If we think about all that God has done for us how could we not extend our love back. God also expects nothing but our whole selves as we love him.
Our love for God therefore extends into the way that we live, and that is the understanding that we get from Paul in our scripture today. As we see Paul start out he begins by saying in verse 8, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” We need to understand this debt not as a bad thing that should feel daunting or taxing to fulfill, but should see it as a gift. We have been given the gift of love and should extend that love as thanks for that gift. In this passage Paul talks of our love for others, but I also see it as our love that extends to God as well. Our only true debt should be of love. Now I know you all like the idea of that…No debt, but Paul is talking about not being bound to another human or another activity so much as to cause a rift in that love that should be shared.
Paul continues to help us understand the importance of love in our lives. He picks back up from where we read last week and lets us know that love is fulfillment of the law. That is love for God and neighbor. He dives more into our Godly love in verses 11-14. In fact as Paul wraps up in verse 14 he writes, “Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Paul is telling us that our love towards God is expressed in how we live our lives. It is in the way that we gratify God. It is in the way we live our lives. The things we do show how we love God. The people we are express our love towards God. When we put things before God, or even if we put ourselves before God, we are taking away from our love for God.
Paul is calling us to examine the way that we live. How is it that we are gratifying the flesh and not God? Paul says in verses 12 and 13, “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day…” Paul then continues on, “not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” Paul talks of these flesh gratifying activities as acts that get in the way of God’s love. In our Gospel text Jesus talks about quarreling and he talks essentially how important love is in a community. As we think about who we are and the way we act can we answer the question. Is this pleasing for God? Paul is warning us of the dangers of allowing God to become second in our lives, of allowing things of this world to get in the way of our love for God. When we allowing satisfaction of the flesh to take over we place God in a second position that is lower than our own satisfaction.
There is a movement online that is called I Am Second…some of you may have heard of it and if you haven’t check it out. It is focused on people telling there stories of how God is First and they there by are second in their lives. Often of how their lives have been different since having made that life change. The movement centers around the idea of how our lives are gratifying towards God. How the greatest way we can live our lives is by loving God. How we strive in our lives not to gratify the flesh, but instead gratify God and leave our lives in his hands. God is first in our lives, and Paul is trying to help us understand that.
As Paul discusses love he makes sure that we know that our love for God needs to be first and foremost in our lives. Paul recognizes the dangers of gratifying ourselves and letting things of this world control who we are. But we know that God is first and show the love we are called to we experience the joy God has for us.
We have been talking about the true marks of being a Christian. What it means to be a Christian? What is entailed? Who is our identity? We must love God. We must express our love for God in the way that we live our lives. We are who we act like. Think about your life if you have been placing things before God. Have you been seeking flesh gratification? Have you been building barriers between you and God? Have you been loving God?
If you had a list of where things ranked in your life where would God be, and don’t just put God first because you know you are supposed to. Take a long hard look and make sure you are actually putting God first. If you aren’t putting God first what is in front of him. How can you be better about putting God first. You know I play fantasy football, and when I was starting one of my leagues this year one of the other people noticed I was a pastor. They asked me how I do fantasy football while having to be at church most of the day on Sunday? I told him that I set my lineups the best I can on Sunday nights and change what I can before games on Sunday, but nothing happens while I am at church. If I lose out on something or miss an injury report I don’t get mad because fantasy football is not first. God is and I should show him the love he has shown me.
So keep in mind that God is first in your life and that all you do is to honor him.