Before I left home to go into ministry overseas, a close friend and mentor of mine, who had been a missionary for some thirty years, took me aside. He gave me some life advice that has stuck with me to this day. He told me, “If you have no time, you have no ministry”. What he meant by this was, when people try to live by God’s commands, it’s easy to turn it into busy-work. We become so busy ‘working for God’ that we sacrifice the time needed to love His people well. I remind myself today that if I don’t make time to love people, then whatever other ‘ministry’ I do is worthless—”a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1). Obedience to God is not a memorised, religious dance—it’s letting a divine surplus of love overflow into the lives of the people around us.
Connecting to God’s abundant love and then letting it flow out of us is an ancient concept. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9, God commands His people to make a lifestyle out of loving “the Lord your God” (v. 5), implying their complete attention and devotion. This is not just an emotional affection for God, but actioned loyalty, with all your soul, heart, and strength involved. Love for God was meant to flavor everything they did, whether special or mundane, public or private. Moses tells them to put these words (vv. 4–6) on their doorposts, to bind them to their hands and foreheads, symbolically immersing their whole lives in love for God. This wasn’t God taxing them for love, like some tyrannical king; remember in Deuteronomy God had just delivered the Hebrews out of Egypt and they were moving into the promised land. They had witnessed and were witnessing God’s great love, and now it was time to reciprocate and give in return, in a cycle of divine and human love that would never end.
But we can’t ignore the fact that love is commanded, not asked. Does that strike you as an oxymoron? In his first letter, John says that by keeping God’s commandments, the “love of God is perfected.” (1 John 2:5). When God commands something, He commands it for the good and redemption of mankind—and our greatest good is found when we are immersed in His love. We become immersed in God’s love, not by passively receiving love, but by actively responding to it—maybe you’ve heard the saying, “love is a two-way street”, it’s no different when it comes to loving God. When we are immersed in God’s dynamic love, receiving and giving again like the Hebrews in Deuteronomy, we are abiding in the love of God. From here, nothing comes more naturally than obedience to all of God’s commandments—not out of compulsion, but out of love and knowing God.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense when John tells us in 1 John 2:9-11, that by loving our brothers and sisters we are showing that we are “in the light.”. In this context, love for God has so consumed our world-view, that the only natural and desirable act is to love, even when loving doesn’t make sense to worldly standards. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, and by adding ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matt. 22:37–40). The whole point of all of God’s utterances in the Law and the prophets leading up to Jesus is to point us back to living a life immersed into the reality of God’s perfect love.
Ask yourself, does your lifestyle naturally express your love for God? Do your actions toward others, in public or at home, reflect God’s love for you? Do you serve Him, not to try and earn His favor, but because your renewed heart delights in Him? Do you make time for people? Take time today to pray for a renewed heart, that would seek to love people as God loves them. Ask for strength to follow in keeping His commandments, and wisdom in loving His people well.