The Bible states that the greatest commandment is to love God. I find that deceptively straightforward. How do we go about engendering love for God, anyway? Well, through forgiveness, service and learning how to hear God communicate with us, love of God comes naturally. That love makes all of the other commandments come more easily, too.
Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, survived incredible suffering in concentration camps during World War II. After the war, she became an outspoken advocate of healing and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Once, after a public address on these topics, a man approached her. He had been one of the guards in the very camp where Corrie had been interned.
The man was rejoicing in her message of love, and held out his hand in a grateful handshake to Corrie. Corrie's instincts drew her thoughts to anger and vengeance, but she prayed for forgiveness and help. She recounts, "I could not [shake his hand.] I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. 'Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.'"
With that prayer, a spontaneous and almost overwhelming love bubbled up in her heart as she shook the man's hand. She continues, "When [God] tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."
In order to feel God's love most meaningfully, we must become the passageway through which God sends it to our fellow beings. When we forgive, we clear out the hurt and anger that obstructs and the flow of love through our hearts. Like water in a dry streambed, His love sinks into us even as we direct it onward to someone else.
Service puts the love of God into action. We ourselves create the evidence in our lives that God loves His children when we act as answers to prayers.
Sometimes we are the answer even for people we don't know well. A couple of years ago, I was going through a really hard time. I felt like I was always the one who gave comfort and support to other people, so I wasn't sure where to turn for help when I needed it most. Within a few weeks, I had made a new friend. She and I had many of the same interests, but also shared many of the same life experiences. This led her to comfort me in the very way I needed. In gratitude, I comforted her when her beloved grandmother was admitted to the hospital and offered a helping hand.
Unfortunately, our lives did not overlap for very long, but for that brief time we both marveled that God would allow us to feel needed andto receive help simultaneously. His awareness of us became very clear through the experience, and I think it's safe to say we are incredibly grateful for the reminder of his love.
While listening is recognized as an essential part of earthly communication, sometimes we forget it's just as important in our relationship with God. For some people, God communicates with a feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Others hear something like a voice in their mind, offering them direction when they need it most. Think of ways you have known God has communicated to you in the past, and be alert to the more subtle versions of that communication in your day-to-day life.
One of the most powerful ways to streamline your ability to listen is to create an environment that welcomes it. For a little time each day, be reverent. Tune out distractions and pay attention to what comes into your mind. It might be a desire to change for the better or the name of a friend who needs you. Act on it, and see how much more radiantly God smiles on you. Our most natural reaction to our awareness of him is to love him, because of how deeply he loves us.
Now that you have a sense of how to hear God, how essential service is and what it means to forgive, you can put these principles to work in your life. As you do these things, love for God will naturally flow into your life and you can go about rejoicing in the relationship with deity you have cultivated.