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“. . . for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (Song of Solomon 8:6,7).

JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES, “IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS” (JOHN 14:15). This is not only a requirement that those who love Jesus must keep His commandments; it is a statement of result, i.e., what will happen if we do, in fact, love Him. The doing of Jesus’ will flows naturally from a heart that loves Him.

In a perfectly healthy spiritual state, our actions toward God would be moved by a beautiful blend of various motives. None of these motives would be insignificant or inappropriate. Yet while there are other honorable motives for doing God’s will, most people would agree that love is the highest. No motive is more noble.

But we can just as easily say that love is the most powerful motive in our relationship to God. It is no wonder that the poets have always compared love to fire. As Solomon described it, love’s “flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” If you’re not a poet but an accountant or an engineer, you might prefer that Solomon had just said, “Love is very powerful.” But Solomon knew, personally as well as poetically, the fire of love’s power. (Tragically, he also knew how destructive that fire can be when it’s not rightly governed.) There is simply no force in the world more potent than love — and when love is a holy passion for God, it is a force that will move us to do what is right with fiery energy. “Love in its essence is spiritual fire” (Emanuel Swedenborg).

As we reflect on obeying the gospel, we would do well to ponder what it is that we most truly love. Perhaps we love God sincerely but have been ill-informed on what the Scriptures teach about how one becomes a Christian. If so, we need to act on our new knowledge — and then continue learning to love God more deeply. But maybe our lives are in the sad shape they’re in right now because, in all honesty, the love of God has not been our primary passion. If that be the case, it’s urgent that we learn to love God. If not, the lesser things we love more than Him will be the death of us.

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).

Gary Henry — +

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