What would you say is the greatest idol in Christianity? Is it money, or pop culture? Is it fancy houses, nice cars, or all our stuff?
It’s possible that all of the above are true. However, I believe that there is a much more universal yet subtle idol that exists in Christianity today. Which at first may sound really shocking to you. So let’s just rip the bandage off, shall we?
I believe the greatest idol facing Christianity is our love for God.
Woah there! What the heck? Isn’t the most important commandment of the law to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul? (See Matthew 22:36-40)
Well, yes. Our love for God matters. However, it’s not the main thing.
Jesus was right in saying that the most important part of the law is our love for God. That is absolutely true for the old covenant law.
The context for this verse, and what caused Jesus to answer this way was the question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
In the law.
So accordingly, Jesus answered him. Within the framework of the Old Covenant yes, loving God is the most important thing you can do. However, I would argue that the New Testament reveals something more important.
Which is simply this: God’s love for us!
The New Testament paints the picture of a God who outrageously loves us, and in response to that love- we love. The difficulty enters into the equation the moment we place more attention on our love for God over His love for us.
1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”
Here’s the shocking truth behind this whole thing. We can’t love God! Not even a little bit! Just as much as we can not make ourselves holy by performing the works of the law, likewise we can not make ourselves love God no matter how much we try. We simply don’t have any love to give.
Apart from Him, that is. John tells us here that we don’t love God through our own efforts. We love God out of the very love that He lavishes out on us! We share in His love.
1 John 4:8 says “God is love”. He’s the source! There is no love we have that is not already His love.
I hope you’re understanding this. Independence from God is a non-existent reality. Nothing we have comes from ourselves.
Our love for God, independent from His love for us, is a non-existing illusion. We can’t love God. Any love we have for God is all imparted love from Him who is Love. While I agree that idolatry may be an un-necessarily strong term to use here, I knowingly exaggerate because I believe this is a change that has to happen in Christianity.
In my mind, most of Christianity is centered around our love for God. It has become all about what we can do to honor God, what we can do to love and worship Him, and so on. Works, and effort have replaced astonishment and wonder! There are plenty of Christians who do good deeds, and perform all the right “Christian” activities but at the end of the day still feel empty and worthless! Precisely because His love for us is not the main thing as it should be.
The church has become a bunch of Christian performers and do-gooders. Enough is enough! The purpose of Christ coming wasn’t to create a society of people who know how to say all the right things, and sing all the right songs to make Him happy. He doesn’t need our love! He doesn’t need our worship!
Stop trying to bring a “sacrifice to God”. Jesus has already done that for you! You don’t need to add a single thing to His work on the Cross. If your love for God is the most important thing, then I simply suggest you look at the cross for a while. Stay there until you get wildly drunk on His love for you. Become flabbergasted at His outrageous grace. Look to the cross and be amazed at the Good News.
Get wrecked by His wild love, and watch as your love for God becomes inconceivably small in comparison to His love for you!
When Christianity is all about our love for God we will create a system that is based on the law (works to please God). But when our emphasis is the joyous news of His outrageous love for us we will become the envy of the entire world! There is nothing more appealing to a hopeless world than Christians who are genuinely happy and bursting with hope because they know that God really loves who they are.
God loves you!
He is outrageously wild about you. How much of your Christian life is based on this reality? Seriously. Take a look at what you do each day. What does your devotional look like? If you’re like me, then it probably looks something like this: read the bible, pray, and worship. All great things, and necessary. However, I have only recently been realizing that I am missing the whole point! My time with God shouldn’t be focused on what I can offer Him. (Prayer and worship especially tend to be about my love for Him). Instead, my time with God should be about enjoying and encountering the depths of His love for me!
Our love for God does matter, but what I want you to see is that it doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think it does. Our number one priority- the very reason why we wake up in the morning- is not to love God, but to be loved by Him!
Let God love you. Let Him whisper how much He accepts you. This will change your life. I know because it’s changing mine.
My life was radically transformed when I began to make this shift. I realized that my love for God was extremely un-important compared to His radical love for me. I gave up trying to muster up love for Him. I just let Him love me for who I am! There’s so much freedom in that.
Now of course, we do love God. However, we don’t love God by our efforts. We love God because He loves us! It has to start there. We don’t love God out of obligation, or service, or please, God-forbid- sacrifice. We love God out of overflow! He loves us so much and this outrageous love is like a dance. We experience the dance of His love, and we can not help but to join in. We join in the fun of it all and effortlessly love Him back. But we can’t make the dance happen, we join the dance.
We are creating an idol when we place more emphasis on our love for God then we do on His love for us. Simply because we our love for Him is an illusion!
When we experience His love for us, our natural response is to join in that love and love Him back. But don’t mistake that to mean that we muster up love for God. We don’t. We can’t! We join in the dance of Mr. Love Himself.
His love for you must come first in your life. I love the way Brennan Manning puts it: “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.”
At the core of who we are, we must define ourselves as “beloved”. We are not “people who love God”, we are “people who God loves!”
What does it mean to be the beloved of God? The only job of the beloved is this: Be loved!
Make everything you do be about this simple truth, and your life will never be the same. Don’t idolize your love for God. Make His love for you the central truth of your life. Nothing else matters. Truly, nothing! His love for you is it. It’s the whole enchilada. It’s the Gospel. He loves you!
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