In the Bible, Jesus tells us how to love God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). In other words, God wants us to love Him with our whole being and in every possible way. God’s own Son taught us to love God the Father with everything we are, saying this was the first and greatest of all the commandments (verse 38).
God wants us to love Him exclusively above all other things and beings. Lukewarm, half-hearted, or apathetic fondness for God won’t do. He wants our total devotion.
Most of us can remember a time when we first fell in love. That passionate, all-consuming, single-minded adoration is the kind of love God desires from us. The Bible says that King David—the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)—had this kind of singular passion for God: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1–2, NLT).
David exemplified how we are to love God by delighting in praise and worship of Him: “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psalm 84:2, ESV; see also Psalm 43:4; 122:1).
Even so, we know that David did not love God perfectly. His ability to love God was often hindered by his human weakness toward sin, just as ours is. But when we fail, we turn to God as David did and declare, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26, ESV).
We love God by keeping His commands and doing His will (John 14:15, 23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6; Psalm 40:8). Jesus said the second greatest command, which is like the first, is to love others, and the measure by which we are to love them is as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). It is impossible to genuinely love the Lord without loving other people, for the desire within God’s heart is to love others: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world . . . as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7–11). Because of God’s love for us, we are bound to love one another. Demonstration of that love is carried out in part by reproducing His life in others as we spread the gospel of His kingdom.
God desires to have an intimate love relationship with us. Our love for Him is a response to His divine love for us (1 John 4:19). Just like two people in love, we express our love for God by spending time in His presence, enjoying His nearness, listening to His voice, reading His Word, and daily seeking to know Him better. As the apostle Paul said, “Whoever loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:31).
Perhaps one of the purest examples in the Bible of how to love God comes from an unnamed woman who anointed the Lord’s feet with her perfume (Luke 7:36–50). So grateful was she for Christ’s forgiveness of her many sins that she poured out her love in extravagant worship and absolute devotion. This woman appreciated the true worth of her Savior, and in humble gratitude, sacrifice, and servitude, she loved and worshiped Jesus with her tears, her hair, her kisses, and her priceless bottle of perfume. She loved God with all she was and everything she had to offer.