What if I don’t love God?
One reader wrote in: "Dear Pastor Bill. I don't love God! Is this blasphemy? I go to church every week, I pray, I believe, but I do not feel the emotion of love. I love my wife and family, but I can't feel this way towards someone I've never met or had any experience with. Am I the only one who feels this way? Does God understand my feelings? Am I unfit for a happy afterlife?"
This is such a difficult question to answer because, truth be told, I have no idea where you stand with God and never truly will. That is a reality that is between you and your Creator. All I can do is tell you what the Bible teaches and pray that God will open your eyes to the reality of your soul. Please rest assured I have prayed for you since I received your letter and will continue to do so hoping you will read my response.
The emotions that you feel towards your family are a good launching point for this conversation - especially the love that you have for your wife. Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that a healthy relationship thrives on knowing the person more and more. As you know your spouse more intimately, you love her more. This is why relationships begin with affection, but develop over time into true, deep, sacrificial love. You can’t truly love someone you don’t know.
Similarly, our love for God should be fueled by knowledge and intimacy of who he is, but often religion gets in the way. Religion, summarized as a system of knowing God and doing things for God so as to earn his favor and his good graces, is where many ‘Christians’ spend their entire lives.
People in this stage go to church, say their prayers, help old ladies, and maybe even throw some money in the box. They know ABOUT God and can even explain things about him to other people, but they don’t know God personally, intimately, profoundly. They don’t have a personal relationship with him. Their relationship with him is often reliant on an institution or ritual.
How can a person love God if they only know about him and don’t truly know him, his character, his goodness, his heart? And more than that, as your question hinted, is this kind of knowledge without love salvific? In other words, does that type of religious faith save us from hell? No, it does not.
Religion says “do more and be good enough” and then God will be pleased with you and you will live a happy afterlife. The problem is that there is nothing that you can bring and throw off the cliff that would be enough to fill the Grand Canyon so that you can walk across. No measure of good works, church attendance, or anything else will ever fill the void and bridge the gap that is caused by our separated, sinful nature.
Religion also says, “Agree with these facts and you will go to heaven!” This also is unbiblical. God doesn’t want a mental assent to facts. He wants your heart. He wants your love! Countless men and women throughout the Bible agreed that God was, in fact, God, but that didn’t mean that they gave him their hearts!
And this is where love comes into play. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” No one has loved God enough to earn a spot into heaven, but God, knowing we could never love him enough, loves us instead. He came to earth, died as a criminal as our substitute, and then freely offers us a pardon in exchange for his condemnation.
This is a love story, and if you know the God of this love story (not know about him, but actually know him) then you will love him. How do I know this? Because the Scriptures say that it is true. Nobody knows love until they know the love of God, but once God has loved you and you know it, your love for him and others (even your enemies) begins to grow. You begin to become more like him, love the things he loves, love people as he does. He fills us with his Holy Spirit to accomplish this exact purpose.
Friend, I want you to know God the way that I know him, and you can. He wants to be known. He died to be known. He sent his Spirit to be known. He gave us his Word, the Holy Bible, to be known. He is knowable and he is oh so worthy to be loved.
Do you want to know him? I would love to tell you where to begin. Email me and I will gladly walk with you on a journey of discovering God so that you can know him too.