The last few blogs have been exploring the idea that loving God includes enjoying God. I'm trying to make a case that while serving and sacrificing are good and true manifestations of love toward someone, perhaps we don't go far enough if we don't include love as enjoyment of the loved one.

Revelation 2 may give some unexpected help in this regard. In the first several verses of this chapter Jesus is addressing the church at Ephesus. He commends the congregation there for their perseverance, their hatred of false teachings and their ability to ferret out false prophets. All good things to be doing when you're following the God of the universe. So far, so good. It sounds like these people are doing a great job of being Christ followers. But then he chastises them severely for losing track of their "first love." The language is strong: "Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent." It's as if he's saying that things done for God are not even in the same ballpark as being in love with God.

Here's the reason why. The move "in love" with God I am, the more I enjoy being in His presence. Being with God makes me desire the good that He is. I develop a taste, even a thirst for the goodness of God. The more I enjoy being with Him, the more I learn to appreciate what He appreciates, I see what He sees, I value what He values. I realize that He loves and values me. I soak up that love and begin to see myself through His eyes. I notice the gifts that He's given me, the intricate way I'm created, my unique ways of mirroring some of His many marvelous character traits. Then I start to see that this love doesn't stop with me. Rather, it encompasses every living thing that moves, and even the living things that don't move. I see that he values people (including my neighbors and children), the stray dogs and cats, the colors in fall leaves, the intricacies of clever engineering. I see that God loves what He has made.

I also see that it grieves God, because of His love, that his creation has fallen into disrepair. That his delight of all He has made is short-circuited, just as the love of a parent is pained when a child goes through a life-threatening illness. Or a teacher is troubled when a student with promise drops out of school and is caught up in a gang. The love of God moves me to action.

But the reverse is not true. Activity will not necessarily engender love and affection or a daily sense of what is in the mind of the one for whom you're working. I can be working diligently for a company, staying up late into the night, creating new marketing strategies, new improved products, watching out for competitors, etc. But this is not the same as having Thanksgiving dinner with the CEO. In fact, it may even keep you from accepting the invitation to come on over and enjoy the feast.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples that they are not his "servants" but his friends. They no longer live out of obligation or obedience. Rather, their lives flow from a relationship where they know God and his ways intimately. I wonder if this is what Jesus is referring to when he speaks to the group of "friends" at Ephesus. In losing the connection - the joy of being in loving relationship with the Godhead - the Ephesians are in danger of moving backwards from friends to servants. And the fainter the connection, the less able they (and we) are to live in the Spirit of the God who loves us, and who loves other people.

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