by Sonia Menezes
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?,” and He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
It can often be hard to digest the fact that God commands our feelings. I used to think that nobody could make demands of my emotions; they were mine to express as I pleased. But the more I understand God’s word, the more I realize that while a lot of this does come down to my choices, God should have the final say.
God demands that we rejoice in certain circumstances (Matthew 5:12), He tells us whom to fear (Luke 12:5), He demands that we not feel shame (Luke 9:26), and so on. If feelings are proper to have, then He can demand it. The fact that I don’t always experience the emotions that I ought to does not change my duty to have them.
When we read John 14:15 that says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” we think that loving God is keeping His commandments. However, it says that keeping His commandments comes from our love for Him. It does not separate deeds from love, but it does distinguish them. First, we love God. And from this overflowing love, we do what He says. Love is not synonymous with commandment-keeping; rather it’s the root of it.
Such love is a mystery for some. How are we enabled to love God more than we love our family, careers, and ourselves? The only answer I can think of is that when we are born into God’s family and become His children, we are given a new nature — one that enables us to love because of His love for us first. The Pharisees that reclined at the dinner table with Jesus could scarcely understand why a woman they called a “sinner” would anoint His feet with expensive perfume, but Jesus did. The Bible recorded in Luke 7 that her sins, which were many, were forgiven. Therefore, she loved much.
When we come into God’s family, our eyes are opened to see the beauty of Jesus in the way He loved us first.
When I’m battling with my emotions in areas like love, worship, and obedience, I remind myself that God first loved me and forgave my multitude of sins — the only fitting response to that is adoration and worship.