Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
When we hear words like this, it is easy to think that the focus of the message is on what we are to do. The words “you shall” make it clear that there is something about this that calls for an action from us. The implication is that we are being called to do this and the emphasis is on our ability or inability to do what is expected.
But while that may seem true on the surface, behind all of this is an even deeper reality. We are called to love God because God first loves us. For Christians, the message is even explicitly shared in the New Testament when it says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) In other words, wherever we start in the loop, going backwards always leads to the same place: God.
1 John also tells us that, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) It is a reminder that God isn’t just loving, like a characteristic. God actually is love. Love is at the very core of God’s nature and at the very heart of God’s identity. Love isn’t just something God does. Love is something that God is.
Because of this, and because each of us has been formed in God’s image, that naturally leads to love being at the core of who we have been created to be. The call to love God in Deuteronomy isn’t a command to do something difficult as much as a calling to be who we have been created to be. When we don’t love, we don’t look like God and we fail to be ourselves. When we do love, then we live out of the identity that God has given us and are true to who we are. So, while the fragmented nature of our lives makes it hard to love, in the end loving is the most natural option once we are clear about who (and whose) we are.
This week, don’t work so much to love people who are hard to love. Rather, spend time reconnecting with the God who loves you completely. When you are able to simply rejoice and receive the love that God has for you, it will be easier to pass that through and love others as well.