I think we all agree, we would love to love Jesus more than we presently do.
But exactly how do we go about doing that?
The Usual Answer
The usual answer is that we just need to pray more, read our Bibles more, go to church more often, and all that fun stuff. “No man is bigger than his prayer life,” Leonard Ravenhill used to say. And cutting my spiritual teeth early on guys like Leonard Ravenhill, I used to think this mindset was the way I could learn to love Jesus more.
And to some degree, this sort of thinking is correct. We definitely need to be a people who pray more often than we do, spend time in God’s word, and to spend time in the presence of the saints. Time spent practicing the spiritual disciplines should cultivate the heart God would love for us to have.
But I think if we are not careful about such matters, such disciplines can help us cultivate a strange sort of “love” for the Lord, by which we say we love the Lord, but find it increasingly difficult to love everybody else.
While I think practicing the various spiritual disciplines is fantastic, and a necessity of life, they are only part of a bigger picture. In and of themselves, praying, reading the Scriptures, and going to church will not always help us love the Lord better. Indeed, they might make our hearts hard to the very one we say we love.
There Two Great Commandments For A Reason
I believe if we truly want to love the Lord more and more, we need to do something else altogether.
We need to practice loving on other people.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandments were, He responded that the greatest commandments were to love God with all of your heart, but to also “love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).”
The two commandments cannot be divorced from one another. They are married together in a way where the proper focus on the one will of necessity cause you to focus on the other.
If you want to grow in your love for God, focus on finding out ways to better love your neighbor. And if you better love your neighbor, you will discover a new depth in your love for God.
Focusing on simply loving God without loving your neighbor, or vice versa, will ultimately lead towards a cold indifference to both. The love of one is designed by God to lead to the love of the other.
Practically Speaking: What’s That Love Look Like?
And what might loving your neighbor look like on a practical level?
Jesus once told a story (the parable of the Good Samaritan) about a man who came to the aid of another man in need. He went out of his way to help this man who he had no relationship with, and whose life He did not otherwise cross paths with. Yet he saw a man in need, and went out of his way to serve him, even at great personal cost.
That’s what loving your neighbor looks like. It’s not a love that is necessarily directed at the person across the street from your house. Rather, it’s finding a person whose life has no relation to your own, and taking the time to minister serve them in some capacity anyway.
If you wish to grow in your love of God by better loving your neighbor, I would recommend volunteering somewhere that is outside your normal social circles and spheres of influence. Find someone to serve that you haven’t really given any thought about previously, and throw yourself into that… even if you aren’t particularly qualified to help. You’ll be amazed at how much God causes your heart to grow in the ways of love.
And that, I believe, is the key to better loving God, just as Jesus said. Love and serve others.