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Ricky Thomson wrote:

Hi, guys—

If this comes across as a bit convoluted or even confused, well, that reflects what I am feeling.

  • What does it mean when we say we love God?

Perhaps the answer is obvious, I don't know. I don't necessarily feel love. I'm not sure what I feel sometimes. Perhaps what I should feel is dominated by the sense of fearing God but even this fear clouds the subject.

  • How can I love someone whom I am afraid of?

I have this sense that God is always in a what have you done for me lately mood. I have this outlook that I'm running a race but if I trip up, at the last hurdle then, sorry, it's off to the flames.

Perhaps this question is the root of that once saved/always saved thinking of some Protestants. I mean, if you have doubts and are committing sin then no worries — put your doubts away as you had already accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour way back when. I don't believe that sort of shallow view of being saved. It seems like an invitation to spiritual passivity but, again:

  • How do we truly love God?
  • How do we know it?
  • What exactly does it mean to fear God?
  • Is fear another form of love in this context?

I know there are different sorts of love: . . . eros . . . agape . . . and whatever Greek term there must be for loving one's mother. I want to love God. I want to feel that fire that I feel for my wife back home in London, uh, in a spiritual sense.

I am a Royal Marine intelligence officer. I am currently in Syria where I have been for months. I admire and respect the many Muslims I have met here. They live their faith on a daily basis, and, no, I am not speaking of ISIS or the Islamic State. I am speaking of the ordinary people who are just trying to lead peaceful lives for themselves and their children. That said, I have never heard anyone speak of loving Allah as Christians speak of Christ. One thing I know: they truly fear Allah! I wonder if that sort of fear has somehow affected/infected my faith by just being here but I don't want to fear God. I want to love Him. When you love someone, you want to be with that person.

If you can make any sense out of all this possible nonsense, well, I would appreciate your thoughts.

Cheers,

Ricky

  { What does it mean when we say we love God when I sense I fear Him more? }

John replied:

Dear Ricky,

Love, in the sense of loving God, is not an emotion or feeling. It's decision and action to give oneself to God — as He gave Himself for us and gives Himself to us. This is Agape Love. Just as in any marriage, emotions have ups and downs, there may be times where we also may feel emotions towards God.

Fear of God, actually means a reverence and awe for His holiness and nature but if our view of God is that He is just looking for an excuse to damn us, then we have a distorted view for God.

God wants nothing more than to have fellowship with each person He created. He doesn't just love us, He likes us. He gave Himself for us, so that He could give Himself to us and give us the ability to give ourselves to Him.

God is looking for the slightest indication from us that we are willing to accept His Mercy and Grace — not the slightest reason to damn us. Through Jesus Christ, we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace as St. Paul wrote. (Hebrews 4:16)

Hope this helps,

John

Eric replied:

Ricky —

I know where you are coming from, but fortunately our God is much, much gentler than the image you have in your mind. John is right; God our Father looks for any excuse to give you Mercy, not any excuse to condemn you. He wants more than anything:

  • to be in fellowship (or Communion) with you and
  • to have an opportunity, if you let him, to transform your life and heal you of your sin and its effects.

He rejoices in you as a groom rejoices in his bride (see Isaiah 62:5). He's calling to you, turn to me with all your heart (Tobit 13:6, Psalm 85:8), be not afraid (Matthew 10:31, John 14:27).

  • What does it mean to love God?

I think of the woman who loved much because she was forgiven much (Luke 7:47). I love God because of all the wonderful things He has done for me, first of which is forgiving me of my many sins. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19-20). He died on the Cross for us — He suffered an agonizing Passion and Death in order to redeem us from our sins. That's the center of our faith.

  • If someone had rescued you from death, how grateful would you be?
  • What if they in fact suffered and died that you might live because they loved you?
  • Would not perhaps that elicit a loving response?

We can compare this love of a love of a child toward their mother and father — their parents give them life and love them first, nurturing them and teaching them and in a real way laying down their lives for them. Unfortunately, not everyone has a good experience with their parents; it is possible that your father was hard and demanding rather than loving, gentle, and affectionate, and this is why you see God has hard and demanding. If so, you'll have to work through that and realize that your father is not God nor is he like God in that way.

It also helps, I think, to realize that in his law God is not imposing his arbitrary will on us as if he's trying to get us to jump through hoops or do what he wants for his own pleasure.

His law is there for our sake, to make us happy!

It's like the instruction manual for the complicated product called life. He's telling us how it is and how to use it effectively, warning us of the natural consequences of misuse.

When someone writes a health food book, they aren't trying to manipulate you into obeying their diet for their own sadistic pleasure. They are writing it because they are convinced that the body will respond to the diet in a positive way and produce a healthy, beneficial outcome.

So it is with God. When we disobey God's law, we are not diminishing God in any way, as if there were any way to diminish God; rather, we are harming ourselves by the natural outcome of our conduct and grieving God, not because per se his all perfect will and majesty were slighted (as if he were an arrogant, temperamental, and mercurial monarch), but just as a parent is grieved that a child does something stupid, he is concerned for our well-being, because he loves us. St. Thomas Aquinas said,

“For we do not offend God except by doing something contrary to our own good, as has been said.” (Summa Contra Gentiles III.122.2).

Sometimes the reason for a given law is not immediately apparent to us in our limited human view, just as a child doesn't understand why he can't have ice cream for every meal. That doesn't mean that there isn't a good reason for it, and that we shouldn't trust in faith that our Father, who would never hand us a scorpion when we ask for an egg (Luke 11:11-12), knows what's best for us.

God is all-perfect, all-satisfied, within Himself. He did not have to create anything. Nothing in creation adds to Him or can add to Him; He is self-sufficient. He created the world and man out of his goodness, magnanimity, and largess. He didn't need slaves, He didn't need puppets. He didn't need someone to worship and obey him. On the contrary, it is us who benefit from worshiping and obeying God. He just wanted to share the love and be generous in creating us.

Receive that generosity and love!

So relax, calm down, and be at peace. Catch your breath. It's not about what have you done for Me lately as if God has an insatiable demand for performance. There is not a single whit you can do for God, strictly speaking. It's like giving a gift to the richest man in the world (Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com). What you do for God ultimately benefits you. There is a saying,

"The glory of God is man fully alive." (St. Irenaeus).

Think hard about that. The glory of God is man fully alive. The glory of God is Ricky fully alive. God wants Ricky to be fully alive, to be alive in the fullest and most complete sense of the word, and that is the destiny of the just. And God's Laws are the instructions we need to follow to get there (and God's grace is the power that makes it possible).

  • What have you done for yourself lately?
  • How have you grown as a righteous man?
  • How have you made yourself more fully alive by loving others more deeply and profoundly?

It's not about benefiting God, it's about benefiting Ricky.

You might want to meditate on Psalm 119 (118 in some bibles; it's the long one) which is a meditation on God's Law. It presents his Law in a more holistic, positive sense than many people understand it. God's law is a light to our path, a way to walk in, a guide to happiness.

I also recommend reading a book called Divine Mercy In My Soul (a.k.a. Diary of Sister Faustina) by St. Faustina Kowalska. It's a bit large but you don't have to finish it to get the gist. Basically, this is an account of private revelations given to Sr. Faustina by Jesus talking about His Mercy. There is a soothing prayer that goes with it, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

I recommend you pray that, you can just google that.

I hope this helps!

Eric

Ricky replied:

Hello Everyone!

So sorry to be late in thanking you all for your extraordinary responses.

I very much appreciate them. Unfortunately, I am back from Syria (I'm a Royal Marine) and things are a bit foggy thanks to a knock on the head courtesy of our friends in the Islamic State. Once things clear up a bit I'll give everything the attention it deserves.

Thanks, really, for spending so much time in writing me. Oh, please pray for me and especially for my wife Amanda. Come October we'll be parents for the first time.

Scary! And wonderful too.

Cheers!

Ricky

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