“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.”
It is not obedience that our Lord ultimately desires. It is love. Obedience flows from that love, so there is expectation of that as well (1 John 5:3), but it is not the core.
Love is at the center.
The one who does not love does not know Him (1 John 4:8). Because He is love. And those who are of God, love (1 John 4:7). That is our mark. Because that is His heart.
Love. The love of the Father that sent Jesus to the cross for us. The love of Jesus that willingly chose to die for our salvation. The love of God that pours into our hearts through the Spirit.
And so we are to love in return.
To love, for we have been forgiven much.
To love, for we are made alive (Ephesians 2:4-5).
To love because of who our God is – not just in general or from a distance, but who He is to us. To me. To you. Personal and near and faithful, even in the moments when we can’t see it.
Our Lord desires our love. Not from a desperate, selfish need, but because He knows this is what opens us to be filled with Himself and set free to abundant life. He desires a heart focused on Him, our treasure. Valuing His Word as life (Deuteronomy 32:47). Obedience with joyfulness and gladness of heart (Deuteronomy 28:47) because we are actively delighting in the One whom we love.
Love is relationship. Love brings joy. Love connects our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions in a solid focus on the Lord, our God who is worthy of our praise, who loves us greatly, and who acts for us.
Love trusts Him. Love rests in Him. Love delights in His presence. Love looks for His hand in our days not with fear but with expectation (1 John 4:18).
And all of this is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
God loved us first, so we are able to love Him fully, without fear or reservation, because His love is perfect. Because His Word proves true (Psalm 18:30).
And when our hearts begin to withdraw due to hurts and misunderstandings and fear that He will let us down as others have, our Lord’s tender compassion shines through (Isaiah 49:14-15; Lamentations 3:16-24). Because He doesn’t get mad. He doesn’t turn His back or huff in frustration or raise walls in defense of His character. No, He speaks sweetly to us (Hosea 2:14). He continues in unwavering faithfulness to seek us out and surround us in perfect love (Deuteronomy 32:10). He brings assurances of His love and of His power to never let us go or allow anyone else to separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39; John 10:28-29; Psalm 73:21-26).
Our God is not an unfeeling Creator. He is not a sovereign King who is distant and leaves us to ourselves. No, He desires a personal relationship with us. He desires us to know His love in all its depths and fullness. That we would look at the cross and see His love manifested, and that we would draw near to Him and realize that His great love did not stop there. It continues in faithfulness to us. To walk with us each step of our way, to never cease doing good to us, and to bring us into His land of promise with all His heart and all His soul (Jeremiah 32:40-41).
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5), that you may be able to say with no hesitation, “your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3). And may this compel us not to a sense of obligation and guilt, but to love. Love that spurs us to life, free and overflowing with delight in Him.