Really, it’s that simple. Knowing Christ means surrendering to Him, and His ways. Loving Him means obeying Him.
Jesus came to declare that religion is dead, but He is alive. We are alive too – really, fully alive as He says in John 10:10. It was the Pharisees that Christ spoke against, with all their rules and strict moral codes, as that kind of thinking and living constrains. It doesn’t set free. It blinds eyes and brings frustration, not freedom.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was and how to live forever, He responded with a pretty definitive answer, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. The account is mentioned in Matthew 22, and Mark 12.
Luke 10:25-28 puts it this way:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Jesus could have launched in to a lengthy diatribe with a long list of required actions, but what he describes are actually the results of a life of active faith, in communion with the Father. Just to avoid any confusion, he then gives us the parable of the good Samaritan straight after this, and in so doing He defines who our neighbour is (anyone in need, not just those we want to help when convenient or uncostly) and gives us a standard with which to measure our love for them. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” At first glance, it may seem a strange thing to say, but we know that Jesus obviously knows exactly what He’s saying. Don’t we all love ourselves? Actually, no. Not really. Not all the time. Our love for ourselves as a Christian must flow from the security that we are His; that we have a purpose, and that we are loved and forgiven. God’s love for us is not swayed by how many people we bring to church or how passionately we evangelise. We must realise that we are loved by God because He first loved us, even before we knew Him or did anything remotely related to church or ministry. Armed with that love, we are then able to love others. If we love ourselves based on our performance, we will love others in the same way too, and that kind of love isn’t transformative for anyone. The love we have for others and ourselves, must be based on who He says we are, not what we do or don’t do. Learning to forgive ourselves is vital to the Christian walk. When we confess and repent, God forgives us, so there’s no need to carry around the burden of shame or condemnation. His love frees us to love with His love.
Of course, love is also an action. If we love without allowing it to stir us to greater compassion, then we are not loving as He does. Love is not a theory. It is a daily practice.
This call to love God in freedom rather than outward, measurable methods may seem odd to some, because as the Pharisees revealed, (as did the Israelites with making a golden calf to worship), our human mind sometimes wants to worship what we can see, rather than the invisible God. Loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind requires we hold nothing back. He didn’t for us. It means loving God with our emotions, will, choices, desires, resources, time, etc. Love until there’s nothing left of us, so we can be filled with more of Him.
As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Knowing Him and loving Him are not boxes to be ticked once accomplished. They are lifetime goals without an end. Like our Father, they are eternal.
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:4-5