A question I’ve wrestled with for a long time: What does it look like to be fully submitted to God?
This post is one of my attempts at sorting that out. My prayer is that some of what I’m thinking about might be helpful to some of you as well — and/or that some of you might have something wonderful to add that I’ve missed! (I welcome your questions and insights. Please comment below!)
I think one place we can look to start understanding what full submission to God looks like is the two greatest commandments — found in Matthew 22 and Mark 12. Matthew 22:37-40 reads:
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.”
Love God with all you are.
Love others as you love yourself.
And what does that look like? Perhaps a better question: What is love?
Biblically, love is unselfishness. It is putting God before everything and putting others before ourselves. It is not, as my husband puts it, having the warm fuzzies for something. The English language uses a single word for love, but the Greeks had several words for love. They would use different words based on the type of love they were talking about.
Now, however, our language lumps everything into the same “love” pile: I love pizza. I love football. I love to teach. I love The Office. I love God.
Because we have only one word for love, we run the risk of minimizing what it means to love God.
What I mean when I say “I love The Office” is that I think the show is hilarious, the characters well-developed and well acted. I mean I enjoy watching the show. I mean I generally get a good feeling when watching the show. Notice the “I” in all of those statements. The way I love The Office is entirely tied up in how I feel about it, what I get out of it. My love for The Office is an entirely selfish one. If I stopped thinking it was funny or if I just didn’t enjoy it as much anymore, I’d stop watching it. I’d stop loving The Office if it stopped providing me with what I wanted.
Is this the same love we offer God? Does “I love God” mean that I think God has good characteristics? Does it mean that I enjoy being with God? Does it mean that I generally get a good feeling when I’m with God? Can my love for God be defined in almost entirely “I-centric” ways? If so, then the rest is true too: If I stop feeling like God has good characteristics or if I stop enjoying God, then I’d stop spending time with him. I’d stop loving Him if He stopped providing me with what I wanted.
That’s not the kind of love we’re called to in the Bible. In the verses about the greatest commandments, love means putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own. Love in this sense is, essentially, unselfishness.
So, if I mean that I love The Office in the Biblical sense of the word, then I would put watching it above anything else in my life; I would do whatever was in the best interests of the characters/actors; I would spend as much time with it as possible. I think we’d all agree, that’d be pretty weird. But, Biblically loving God and others does involve putting them above anything else in my life, doing whatever is in their best interests, and spending as much time with them as possible.
So, you can see why the fact that we only have one English word for “love” can cause confusion. It can also dull our senses to what it means to really LOVE God. When we’re so used to saying how much we love reading or shopping or the color blue, saying we “love” God isn’t something we necessarily give a lot of critical thought to.
My challenge for all of us this weekend is to start giving some critical thought to it.
Ask yourself: Can I honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)? Can I honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him? Which of these areas is the most difficult for me to give to God? Why? In what areas might God be asking me to become more fully submitted? (Please comment below.)
I would encourage you to answer these questions honestly. God already knows the answers — and it will be beneficial for your walk with Him, if you know the answers too. Knowing the answers will help you restructure any parts of your life that aren’t in line with loving God.
So this weekend hopefully some of you will join me in looking honestly and critically at what we mean when we say “I love God.”
In the next few posts (next one coming up on Monday!), we’ll break these areas of submission down further. (And I’ll share one of the ways God asked me to more fully submit to Him.)
To read the next post, click here: (becoming) fully submitted, part 2