Many describe loving God as the first act of the process of becoming a loving Christian. This makes sense theologically, as God is the origin of all love, including our ability to love. Because we were created in His image, we were created to love.
However, in this lifetime, God is emotionally more distant. This is due to the fall, which caused the rupture of connection between us and God. We have since been out of direct communion with God.
“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31 (NASB)
The way we primarily learn and choose to love God and others is through our relationships with “neighbors” in our lives. It is not just a cognitive process learned through the word. It includes emotion. Love is the most powerful and intense emotion of all.
Loving attachments can be where we experience communion with God on earth. This is through the experience, good and bad, of relationships.
We learn to love through understanding who we are, and how we are different from each other, as we relate to others outside of ourselves. Sometimes this leads to deeper love and connection with each other, and sometimes this leads to conflict. How we resolve relational conflict expresses how we love. This includes communicating and negotiating, submitting ourselves and giving of ourselves to the other and trusting. It is also the conflict within us, to empty ourselves, and submit to the Spirit. Will reconciliation be the final outcome or do we withdraw and allow disconnection? This is the difficult emotional work where we try to reconcile, as God is the great reconciler.
As Christians, we obtain spiritual communion with God and others through the Holy Spirit. Through acts of loving our neighbors, not only do we fulfill the commandment in Mark 12, but we allow the Spirit to teach us to love others more fully. Through this process, we grow in loving God more with our heart, mind, soul and strength. Through the love we have and experience with those of flesh and blood here on earth, we can more fully know and feel the experience of love and connection, including the amazing reality of God’s love for us.