On Feb 21st, 2018, Billy Graham, the famous evangelical preacher, died at the age of 99. Graham’s message was simple: God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you. In 2015, he wrote on his web site that “not only is it possible to have a close personal relationship with God, but he actually wants it to happen!”
Is this really true? Can we actually have a personal relationship with God?
Indeed it is. The reason it is true is that love, the very thing that creates and sustains relationships, is God’s very nature, and God loves us:
So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who
abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” [1 John 4:16]
But how do we “do relationship” like this: how do we “abide in love” and thus “abide in God”? Very simply, by loving him back! “We love, because he first loved us.” [1 John 4:19] When asked what was the greatest commandment, i.e. the main thing that God wants people to do, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [Matthew 22:37-39]
Wait a minute: what is this bit about neighbor? I thought we were talking here about God?
The fact is, to love God properly, we also need to love those who he loves. God loves us, yes, but he also loves other people, and if we want to be his friend, we really ought to love them too. The bible has some pretty strong language about this: “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” [1 John 4:20]
OK, so now we know that God loves us, and other people too, and he wants us to love both him and others. But how do we do this on a daily basis?
A loving relationship, whether it is a relationship with God or a relationship with people, needs regular spending of time together, talking and listening. To live out love for God, set aside time to pray each day, and read the Bible (especially the Gospels). Go to Church faithfully and receive the sacraments with a good disposition, even if Church isn’t always fun or if others at church aren’t as congenial as we’d like. Remember that love of God means love for other people too: this means we should spend time with people, talk and listen, and do our best to help when they are in need.
Like any relationship, our relationship with God can have its ups and downs. When things get rocky, if we “mess up”, the right thing is to repent, reconcile and try again, trusting in the fact that God’s love is stronger than our failings. Remember, Jesus never stopped loving, even when people did horrible things to him on the cross.Trust in this love: if we fail, get up, be sorry, repent and be reconciled, and carry on. So what are we waiting for? Let’s love God and enter into in a personal relationship with him, knowing how much he loves us.