Read: Matt. 21:28-32
Think about it:
I love you—I love you—I love you . . .
I mean I REALLY love you—REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY . . . With each repetition, the intensity (and the volume) rises in the man’s voice. But the intended object of all this outpouring remains unimpressed.
Think about it. How effective would this approach be if we tried it on the man or woman we’re trying to win? How effective would it be if someone tried it on you? Exactly what would you be thinking the whole time he/she was saying all that?
I’m guessing God feels the same way. We’ve been talking about God’s first and greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:4) Last time we noted Jesus’ warning to the church in Ephesus, “You have left your first love . . .” (Rev. 2:4) And we were faced with the practical problem: Exactly how can I increase the level of my love for the Lord if it isn’t where it should be? I would quickly agree that true love will stir deep passion and intense emotions. But I’m wondering if that is the place to begin.
It’s significant to me that the Lord didn’t advise the Ephesians to try to create any particular emotional state. Rather, he told them first to remember. (Rev. 2:5) Can you remember a time when you really were deeply in love with the Lord? What were you doing in those days? Well, what if you began doing those same things again? (By the way, I believe this approach will work with any couple who suddenly realizes that their love has cooled over the years. No extra charge for that bit of marriage counseling.)
When he tells them to repent, he is really telling them to change their mind about the direction their life has taken, and turn around. Again, this isn’t an emotional state we’re trying to create. It’s a deep paradigm shift in the way we see ourselves—and God—and everything we do. It begins at the bedrock level of our consciousness.
In today’s reading, we learn about a father and two sons. The father had an agenda for his sons. “Go work today in the vineyard.” (Matt. 21:28) The first son, however, had other plans. In fact, he bluntly told his father, “I will not.” He had his own life to live, right? Dad just had to understand. He wasn’t a little boy anymore. He was busy. But as he went away to fulfill his own purposes, his mind kept going back to his father. He remembered. And I don’t think he only remembered his father’s request. He remembered all those times . . . And he repented. My Bible says he “regretted” his hasty rejection of his father’s request. And he turned around—and did the thing his father asked him to do.
Jesus didn’t actually use the word, love, in this story—but there’s no doubt this is a love story—from beginning to end. It was love that wouldn’t let the son go his own way after all. It was love that caused the deep regret. And it was love that turned him around. But I also believe that as he began his journey back into his father’s vineyard, with every step, as he picked up his tools and went to work—his love actually grew. And I believe it had to be an emotional experience. Can you imagine the scene between the father and the son when they re-connected, probably in the vineyard, later that day? There had to be hugs—and apologies—and a mutual reaffirmation of their love for one another. And then they both went back to work. More deeply bonded than ever before.
So I believe the call to love the Lord should look something like this. Have you been doing your own thing? Lost in your own world? Thinking your own thoughts? Pursuing your own agenda? What has the Lord asked you to do? Really? You may need to re-discover that quiet place in his presence, just to hear him once again. Don’t be in a hurry there. Just be content for the moment to re-connect. To listen. To allow him to love you. You’ll probably need to tell him you’re sorry about some things. And then, as you hear him say, “Do this” or “Go there” or whatever it may be, just say “Yes, Lord.” And then do it. And watch your love grow. Really.