“What can I do to love God more?” This is a question often asked out of our desire to draw closer to God. While it is a worthy question, it suggests that if we loved God more then God would love us more in return. The wonderful truth about the God we believe in is that God first loves us. God does not love in return. God just loves. We cannot earn that love, bargain for it or do things so we deserve it.
In the Gospel, Jesus outlines how we are to respond to God who first loves us. He puts the response in the context of greatest of all the commandments. He says we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Next, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. He sums it all up by saying, “There is no greater commandment than these (12:28b-34).” Outlining the commandment to love in this way was shocking at the time because Jesus made love of God and love of neighbor equally important. It is not love God, then love our neighbor. The sequence is: God first loves us, in response we are to love God and our neighbor. Another way of putting it is to say that loving our neighbor is the confirmation that we mean it when we say we love God.
Loving others requires that we give of ourselves on behalf of someone else. Love means that we move outward toward others in sharing our abilities, talents, time, energy and even our financial resources. We do not share who we are and what we have in return for someone else’s love. We generously share a portion of what we have because it is the right thing to do as people who are first loved by God.
These past weeks of our parish’s stewardship renewal have reminded us that as disciples of Jesus we are to live with thankful hearts. Out of that gratitude we grow in love, are of service to others and generously share our gifts. In the week ahead, may we prayerfully discern what we will pledge next Sunday for our 2019 weekly support of Christ Cathedral Parish and our efforts to bring the life and love of Jesus to the world.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector