My mother would speak about “The Love of God” a lot. She’d say, “for the Love of God, be nice to your sister!” Or she’d say, “for the Love of God, stop picking on your little brother.” More than once I heard her say, “for the Love of God, please do your homework.” Yep, my mother thought that the love of God should have been a motivating force in my life for good. But honestly it didn’t really motivate me at all. I never was very nice to my sister. I never stopped picking on my little brother and seldom did I do my homework.

I always thought that the saying “For the Love of God” was addressing my love for God.  My mom’s exhortation was that I should be a better person because I loved God. The truth is, however, my love for God was never sufficient enough to cause behavior change.  My fear for God worked a lot better. If I didn’t love God, I sure did fear Him. The fear of punishment was a much better motivator in my growing up years. When we’re children the Law is the guardian of our behavior. We need all the do’s and don’ts to keep us in line and the fear of the switch (in my case) or the corner or some punishment had a greater impact on my choices than love ever did.  But we’ve all got to grow up someday.

I finally did and now I believe the true motivation for good living is not my fear of God or my love for God. It is God’s love for me. Once we fully comprehend God’s love for us our lives do change. This was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. He prayed that, “Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” I’ve become convinced that true life change is the product of understanding how deeply God loves us. He so “loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”