I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me, Psalm 8:17.
What does it mean to love the Lord? In my previous post I recounted an Easter Mass I attended at a Greek Orthodox Church in the 1970s. If you are inclined to be impressed with ancient rituals, the waving of incense, the chanting of priests, the intoning of a Greek Liturgy, and the image of tall candles and golden chalices in a centuries old cathedral, it was a spectacular experience. I have no doubt whatsoever that the hundreds of participants from the crowded inner city Greek neighborhood would gladly have told you that they loved Jesus Christ. To them their very attendance on that Easter Morning should have been sufficient proof.
Does the Lord himself get a say in what it takes to love him? Does he merely look down upon the cultural preferences of various people and equate a people's love for their traditions and beliefs about him as sufficient love? As it turns out, Jesus Christ made two definitive statements on what it took to love him. If ye love me, keep my commandments, John 14:15. The Apostle John commented on that very thought when he wrote; For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous, 1st John 5:3.
God measures love for him by measuring how we keep his commandments. This may conjure images in our heads of a group of self righteous pharisees looking down their noses at each other, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus did not give a bunch of commands on how to dress and what days to keep. He commanded us to love one another. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another, John 13:34. Jesus certainly left us with a legacy of how to love one another. When Peter rebuked the crowd at Jerusalem for crucifying Jesus Christ, he said this; God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him, Acts 10:38.
This brings us to the second requirement that Jesus gave for how we are to love him. How can we be sure what his commandments are? How can we know that what we call loving one another is what Jesus would call loving one another? We have his word. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him, John 14:23. Now we are not merely talking about keeping his commandments, we are talking about the individual words that make up those commandments.
Next Sunday, whenever that is for you when you read this, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people will gather in churches throughout the world and will partake in what their particular culture uses to express worship and love for Jesus Christ. What will look to the casual observer to be a whole hearted love for God, will in actuality in most cases be rebellion against the word of God. I didn't say this, Jesus did. He is the one who made keeping his words to be the true proof of loving him. In the English speaking world it is impossible to love Jesus Christ while using the new translations. The new translations are not his word. They are a conscious rejection of his words.
The new Evangelical tradition of carrying diverse bibles into church, swaying with lifted hands as praise bands drone on and everybody hugging each other afterwards is the new cultural norm for these people and all the proof that they need that they truly love Jesus Christ. What they really love is carrying diverse bibles into church, swaying with lifted hands as praise bands drone on and hugging each other afterwards. That is not what Jesus Christ called loving him and it is not what Jesus Christ called loving one another.
Any man and woman can feel "love" with the right music and swaying while they hug one another. Such things do not keep marriages together. In fact it is just such a start to love that usually ends up in a collapsed marriage. It is the nitty gritty day by day selflessly living together, raising a family, suffering tragedies, rejoicing in goodness, learning to forgive and longsuffer one another that builds a lasting love. Churches that have confused their hedonistic sway festivals and anything goes bible translations are sadly mistaken if they think that that is love for Jesus Christ and one another.
If there is anything that I have learned as a church member for 4 decades and as a pastor for 15 years, it is that getting people to love one another takes a fierce adherence to the word of God itself and a nitty gritty day by day selfless living together while raising families, suffering tragedies, rejoicing in goodness and learning to forgive and longsuffer one another.
Keeping the word of God has not been easy. The attacks upon it are constant and unremitting. The half truths and outright lies against it require a never ending vigilance to keep a congregation protected and in love with God's word. The very existence of this blog should be sufficient proof for those who have perused its pages that a preacher must stay on his toes and hold forth the sword of the Spirit. I have found that those who have learned to love the words of God as expressed in a King James Bible have learned to express the love of God to their families and to their fellow church members.
The world may see that as a strange form of legalism, but Jesus Christ sees it as love to him.