We are to “love God, with all of our heart and mind and soul and strength” (Mt 22:37). This means that we will give the best and most of our time, energies and affections to God our Father, Jesus Christ His Son and to the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest commandment of God. Unless we do this we are law-breakers.

Yet who of us do this?….

The correct answer is not one of us. For all of our Christian faith and obedience, at one point or another, we all ‘pull back’ from this true love of God, and actually devote our time, energies and affections to other things before God. This is not that we don’t love God. As Christian preacher and poet, John Donne, truly cried to God, “yet dearly I love you”. The problem was that, as he added, “but I am betroth’d unto your enemy”!

We do not have true love and affection for God, because we have greater love and affection for other things, which come between us and God, and are therefore His enemies!

This doesn’t mean that we are not saved or forgiven. These gifts are entirely our ours by grace from Christ through simple faith and repentance. But this is only the beginning of God leading us to fulfil His commandments of love.

John Donne recognized that in order for this to change we need God’s love to “batter our heart”, its force to “break, blow, burn”, in order to “o’erthrow” our false loves, and “divorce and “untie” us from them. God does this because He loves us so powerfully; it is the action of His jealous love to win us over to true love for Him(Ex 34:14).

Only when God loves us in this way – “ravishes” us, as John Donne has it – will we love Him truly, fully – ravish Him in response.

As we take God’s command to love Him seriously, and seek Him in prayer, we can trust Him to ‘batter down’ our false loves, liberate us from them, and ‘fan’ our love for Him into a ‘flame’.

Grace and peace, Jonathan.

“Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me”.

John Donne (1572-1631)