I don’t know about you, but I find that my human relationships often can teach me a lot about my relationship with God. Sometimes because my human relationships are so similar to my relationship with God. And sometimes because my human relationships are so different from my relationship with God.
Now, one of the things that I’ve learned from my human relationships is that if I love someone, I need to tell them. Love is not meant to be a secret. If I love someone I can’t keep it to myself. For example, whenever I talk on the telephone with either my daughter or my son, we always end our conversation with one of us saying “I love you” and then the other one will come back with “I love you, too.” It seems very natural for me to do that with my kids.
But as a divorced woman who dates men, I’ve learned that when I’m in a romantic relationship with a man, it’s not so easy because the words “I love you” come with all kinds of baggage. Not too long ago, there was a man in my life whom I dated for a couple of years and I grew to love him. It wasn’t something I could keep to myself, so I told him. “I love you,” I said. And he said to me… “Thank you.” Ouch! Thank you? That’s not what you’re supposed to say when someone says “I love you.” But he couldn’t bring himself to say “I love you, too” so he said “thank you.”
It made me think of my relationship with God. God tells me “I love you” again and again in my life and often the best I can do is say “thank you.” As a recipient of God’s grace, “thank you” works. But I also need to respond to God’s grace. How do I move from a thank-you relationship with God to an I-love-you-too relationship?
Do you remember when Jesus was quizzed by a Jewish expert in the law who wanted Jesus to cut to the chase and tell him what the most important law was? Jesus couldn’t answer the question because he couldn’t identify the one most important law. He had to give two. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”(Matthew 22:37-39)
For Jesus, these aren’t two separate laws to live by. They are two parts of the same law. The way to love God is by loving our neighbor. It’s not just a matter of saying “I love you, God” over and over again. It’s about showing our love for God in the way we treat other people.
Our God says to us, “I love you.” Through Jesus Christ we know those are more than just words alone. “I love you,” he says. Our lives are given in response to God’s love. Not just with the words alone, but with lives that say “I love you too.”