“15 “See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; 16 what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going.” (Deut 30)
Can you command someone to love you?
The answer is, of course, “Yes.” You can command someone to do anything your little brain can put words to. The real underlying question is, can you reasonably expect compliance?
No, no, not so much. Now any fool knows this and anyone who doesn’t is mad as a third world dictator with too many medals on his chest and should be given a wide berth. I only ask because, well, it seems this is precisely what God is saying in our passage from Deuteronomy. Now God isn’t a third world dictator, He isn’t mad so… what is He saying? Let’s go back and look at it.
The commandment here in Deuteronomy, in the beginnings of the Israelite History, is this, “love Yahweh your God”. That’s it. It’s that simple. It is the commandment that remains to today. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22)
So we come to God on the throne, shining brighter than the Sun and He and the Son on His right hand just as calmly as a third world dictator, look at us and say in a voice of a thousand thunders, “I command you to love Me and each other.” Um, yeah. That’s pretty clear. Got it. Good talk boss, we’ll uh, go do that now. We’ll just get right on that, shall we?
Then we step back outside, take a deep breath, wipe the cold sweat from our brow and start writing out our wills. Love God? How are we supposed to do that? We can’t even love the people in our own families. We have a saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” You know why? Because familiarity breeds contempt! That’s why! The more we get to know a person, the more they bug us! If we can’t love the people closest to us, how can we love the God we can’t see and can’t hear?
Okay, take another calming breath. MMmmmmffff, aaaaaaahh. Let’s look at this logically. Psychiatrists tell us feeling follows action. Is that true? Didn’t the Pharisees have action? What is the commandment here? What is the thing the Pharisees missed? “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but your inside is full of greediness and wickedness. 40 Fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as charitable giving the things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11) Give in love the things within. Within. What’s within? Well, um, we’re within. Our souls, our hearts. So Jesus is telling us to give up our heart and soul? To offer …us?
This would conform with the Hebrew concepts of wickedness and righteousness. When you go through the Bible, wickedness is almost always coupled with greed and selfishness. Eve wanted the fruit for her mouth, for her eyes, and she wanted the wisdom of God for herself! We want what we want for no one but ourselves. Even here in Luke eleven, the Pharisees didn’t give their hearts to God; they performed so God would give them what they really wanted: wealth and honor on their own merits. God don’t play. Performance doesn’t wash with a God who’s got CATscan vision. God says, “Everything is mine. Even the life, souls and hearts inside you.” If they’re His, then to deny love, to withhold love, to hold back forgiveness, charity, honor, to hide ourselves away is greed! This is mine! You can’t have it. This is mine! I won’t give it to you unless you fill-in-the-blank for me first! Our love is transactional. We only love to receive love. We give to get. We are takers, even when we’re giving. If the command is “Love” then we’re not firewood, we’re last year’s Christmas tree in a room full of sparklers.
Ready for the good news?
God already knows that. He’s known it from the beginning. “5 And Yahweh saw that the evil of humankind was great upon the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was always only evil.” (Gen 6) God knows! He knows we cannot love with hearts of stone! We need new hearts! And it gets better than this! Listen!
“24 “‘And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all of the lands, and I will bring you to your land. 25 And I will sprinkle on you pure water, and you will be clean from all of your uncleanness, and I will cleanse you from all of your idols. 26 And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them.” (Ezek 36) This isn’t prophecy for us anymore! It is finished! Jesus accomplished this on the cross for us!
“15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and have believed the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. 17 By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as that one is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear includes punishment, and the one who is afraid has not been perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.” (1John 4) God understands our transactional hearts and so He moved first! We can love, because He first loved us! How can God command us to love Him?
Because He’s the one doing all the work.