My God, I love You;
Not because I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who know You not
must die eternally.
Why do people say that they love God? Is it because out of fear of punishment? Is it because we have this picture of a wonderful afterlife? The love of God and the trust in God is default inside American political life, especially in more conservative circles. It is so common that many people assert this love through generic statements of adoration and pithy bumper stickers. The Apostle John made an entirely different conclusion on why people love God, one that is contrary in American life. He writes in chapter 4 of his first epistle,
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
In the current generation, we really don’t have to face death. Technology has given us the ability to push death further into the future with medication and scientific achievement. Someone who would have died at 40 now lives to be 90. Quite simply, we do not have to live with questions that once plagued past generations. A question to ponder, with I John 4 in mind, is why do you love God?