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In fact, to demand that we love God – or anyone – strongly tends to squelch any love that might have been developing!
That’s a common human experience. So I hear, and you probably have heard or thought, that it’s both wildly immature of God and intrinsically impossible that Divinity’s “first and greatest commandment” is that we love God – at least as we often understand the issue.
The argument against that “Great Commandment” is mainly two-fold, and it makes good sense.
1. You cannot demand love of anyone.
Loving seems to be an ultimate characteristic of human dignity and freedom. So it is literally impossible to coerce love. (You can, of course, coerce feigning of love, profession of love, etc.)
2. It’s extremely petty and annoying
to have someone – Any One – demand love from us. It seems to require that their subjective emotional needs be ranked way above our own. Is God that needy? It’s an impossible demand. And it’s insulting and abusive.
Well, those are good arguments!
But I think there’s a way in which this Biblical standard is reasonable – very wise and helpful.
What if the strong recommendation (“commandment”) that we love God is given not because of God’s neediness, but because of OURS?
What if, in fact, God is
- 1 – so great,
- 2 – and especially so GOOD
- that the best thing for us in every way is in fact to learn to love this Great Origin-Spirit?
- It’s like loving ourselves, since we are God’s creation. It’s like loving everybody. Like loving the whole world!
I mean, if you believe in God at all, that has to be at least a possibility, right? Love God because this Immense Goodness is the best thing there is!
The Lord’s Prayer goes there directly: “Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom Come.” According to Jesus that’s the best thing you can ask for, the first thing you should ask for.
Thus, it seems to me, the strong recommendation (command) that we love God is NOT because of God’s neediness, but OURS.
We know that the moral impact upon us of our loving, of what you or I engage with in love, is very great.
That’s an elementary psychological observation. Suppose God cares about what we love because God cares in wise and healthy ways about OUR health – moral, psychological, emotional, relational. Do you suppose God is possibly that good? From my perspective that could well be.
It may be that God actually is a Being (or however you define it) of such great
- good will,
that it would be a high achievement OF the human psyche – and excellent therapy FOR the human psyche – to increasingly realize, and love, that Reality.It may be that God actually is a Being of such great beauty, sophistication, power, love, creativity, wisdom, etc, that it would be a high achievement of the human psyche to love that Reality.Click To Tweet
If so, then any Great Teacher who understands this will have to recommend to us that we LEARN TO LOVE that great underlying Beauty and Creative Origin of all being. And if they know how, they will coach us in that love.
It just makes sense. The driving concern behind any command to love God is not God’s neediness, but our need, which includes the moral impact on us and our surroundings of what we love.
The Hindu God Krishna said it clearly maybe 2500 years ago.
I am the same to all beings.
My love is the same always.
Nevertheless the ones who meditate on Me with devotion, they dwell in Me and I shine forth in them.
The worst sinners become saints when they love Me with all their hearts.
Such love will transform the personality and fill the heart with profound peace.
– Sri Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, translated by Eknath Easwaran
To demand love is both unscientific (irrational, impossible), and wildly immature. But what is the absolute best, most to be desired, Ultimate Being you can imagine? What if IT is Better than any of us imagines? Then to strongly direct us in that direction would likely be the best advice we will ever receive. To love God is very strongly recommended to us as a life-or-death necessity, and the healthiest and best experience. It’s probably worth some sustained attention, eh?
(Here’s an article about Friendship with God.)