Ever wonder why so many church-goers don’t actually obey the teachings of Jesus?

Though I teach a course that aims to help students develop a Christian worldview—a course that obviously emphasizes the importance of core beliefs about how the world works and the way God would have us live in it—I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s not only what we know that shapes our lives, but what we love. It’s one thing to know what the right thing to do is, but do we love doing it. It’s one thing to know that Jesus is Lord, but do we actually love him?

In no uncertain terms, Jesus told his disciples that the key to obeying him is to love him:

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him…. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:21-24) 

According to the passage just cited, loving and obeying go together. To render unto Jesus what Eugene Peterson wonderfully terms “a long obedience in the same direction” requires that we genuinely love the one we call “Lord.”

Some other passages that encourage us to cultivate and maintain a love relationship with God are: 

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” [29] “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:28-30)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– (1 Corinthians 2:9)

If anyone does not love the Lord–a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Ephesians 6:24)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (1 Peter 1:8)

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:3)

According to all of these passages, it is indeed both possible and important that we love God if we want to effectively navigate our way through this world, pleasing him in the process. 

This is not to say, however, that it’s unimportant to strive to know as much as we can about God as well.  It’s fashionable these days, given the influence of a radical epistemological skepticism that pervades what I refer to as a “hard” version of postmodernism, to suggest that, since we really can’t know the truth (objectively) about anything–especially God–all we can do is love him. In opposition to this eccentric position I would offer that the following passages all seem to refer to our ability to possess some knowledge of God (and his Son Jesus):

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (Colossians 1:10) 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. [3] His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2-3)

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8)  

So, where does all this leave us?

Ultimately, you have to make your own call, but it leaves me with the impression that: while it’s very important for us to strive to know as much as we can about the God who created and redeemed us, it’s also very, very important for us to go beyond a mere knowledge of him to a genuine love for him!

So, here’s my very simple prayer for today: 

Spirit of God: here’s my mind—enable me to keep growing in my understanding of who Jesus is and what he’s about; here’s my heart—fill it afresh with a profound, transformative love for Jesus, his words, his people, and his mission; here’s my will—help me to be a doer of Jesus’ teachings, not just a hearer. Amen.

Something to think about.