I have often found it difficult to sing the song “I Love You Lord and I Lift My Voice” (Laurie Klein, 1978). It is a lovely, short song of devotion and I often get goose bumps singing it even after all these years. But I struggle to sing it for two reasons. First, I am more aware of God's overwhelming love for me. He loves me infinitely more than 3,000. He loves me more than I could ever love Him. I'd rather sing of His love for me than my love for Him. There is a second reason I struggle to sing this song. I grapple with the question: “Do I really love Him?”
How does one measure one’s love for Jesus? Actually, He has given us clear teaching as to how one should express one’s love for Him.
If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too. (1 John 4:20–21 NET)
The above seems clear enough. God is complete and does not need anything from us though our worship songs can give Him joy. But we can and should care for our brothers and sisters. Earlier in 1 John, John had already told us:
We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians. But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16–18 NET)
If you love God, you will love His people in concrete ways, with real resources like money and time. If you don’t love God’s people, you don’t love God.
But loving God’s people is tough. Not only does it make demands on our money and our bandwidth, we also have to come to terms with the fact that God’s people are not always easy to love. One just has to look at New Testament commands like accept one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, etc. God knows that loving others is not easy. And, sometimes, loving your brothers and sisters is the hardest. It is to be patterned on Jesus dying for us on the cross.
Which is why John also tells us how we can love sacrificially.
We love because he loved us first. (1 John 4:19 NET)
Our love for Jesus, whether through song or through our love for others, is a response to Jesus’ prior love for us. Our hearts should be consumed with the awareness of how much we are loved by God. We live our lives with a gratitude that propels us to love God and neighbour, indeed to love God by loving neighbour.
So, can I sing “I love You Lord”? Let me first check my diary and my budget.