Saint Augustine once famously prayed, "You have made us for yourself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you." What Augustine was recognizing was that we were not merely made by God, we were made for God. We were designed to have an intimate and loving relationship with God as the center of our identity and when anything else takes his place life just doesn't go as it should. The human problem is that we replace God with pretty much anything else - family, career, lifestyle, self. Apart from the love of God, these things leave us restless and dissatisfied. This is why Jesus tells us the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not because he wants us to be more religious but because he loves us and knows that living in relationship with God at the center of our lives is the best thing for us. The Gospel is the good news that out of his great love for us God has sent Jesus to repair and restore our relationship to himself and turn our hearts back toward him. In considering our call to love God we have to keep the Gospel central so we realize that this call to love God is not about us trying to earn the love of God, it’s responding to it.
After giving the first and greatest commandment Jesus promptly goes on to give what he calls the second greatest: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells us the whole of the Bible's teaching about life is summed up in loving God and loving your neighbor. If you do these two things you will find yourself walking in step with whatever else the Bible has to say about human life. Part of what this means is that the Christian life must be lived in community with others. When we embrace the Gospel we are formed into a new community, a new family created by the Gospel. People in this community share their lives, they pray, serve, eat, learn and worship together (to name just a few things). This community also gives other people a glimpse of what it might look like for them to reconnect with God. Of course, we have to admit that a family of broken people will have many problems. But as we live in this imperfect community we are given the opportunity to express the same type of grace and forgiveness towards others that God has shown towards us. We take an interest in them and seek to do them good, again not to earn anything before God, but just because loving them and caring for people is the right thing to do. Our love for others should resemble God’s love for us in Christ. This means as Christians we are called not simply to believe the Gospel, but to live it out in our relationships with others. We are to practice grace, mercy, forgiveness, and patience and seek to serve others practically and care for their needs.
Love the World
God’s ultimate plan is to restore our world, rather than to abandon it, and he has made us partners with him in this work of restoration. Just as the Father sent Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, as a people we have been sent with that same Spirit living as a restorative influence for all things by the work of God the Father through Jesus. God calls us to love, care, pray, and seek the good for places where we live. The need for renewal and restoration is all around us, in every career, calling and community. As we open our eyes to the challenges around us, we imagine how things might be different if they were to experience God’s grace, and we work to see that grace extend more and more. Among other things, this means that the life of faith isn't concerned with only so-called "spiritual things." The Christian faith is expressed every day of the week as we live for God in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities and as we seek to see those places transformed by the grace, truth, love, justice, and beauty of Christ.