By Fin Sheridan
This is one of my favourite covers. And, as I write this, 21,654,631 people have watched it too so I guess a few other people like it too. The regret of the chorus “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t” resonates with anyone who has loved someone who doesn’t love them back.
Oddly, this song always makes me think about something that Jesus said. When asked what the most important commandment was, he replied “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself”. Whilst the second half of the verse is widely accepted by Christians and non Christians alike as being “The Golden Rule”, the first half is less widely quoted – even by Christians.
Love is a great verb but doesn’t work so well as a command. As Bonnie Raitt, and Bon Iver, lament, it’s practically impossible to order your heart to love someone or something. Love doesn’t work like that – so why would Jesus command it?
It would be much easier if he’d said to obey or follow God; you can obey or follow without affection or “heart”. But neither require relationship and that is what God wants for us: loving relationship. God loves us and wants us to love him back. This divine love cycle then enables the second half of the commandment. As we accept God’s love for us and learn to love him back, that overspills into a love for people. Because God’s love satisfies and transforms, because it gives us a solid and firm identity, we’re free to love others unconditionally.
Loving God, and being loved by him, also leads to a greater desire to please him and follow his commands. We are more open to correction, to his guidance through the Word and through the input of Christian friends and leaders. As we follow him, we find an intimacy that creates more desire to obey him, and so on and so on.
Maybe your new year began with determination to follow God a little bit closer – and that’s a good resolution. However, the first step in following or obeying God more comes when we realise that first and foremost, he wants a loving relationship with us. He can’t make us love him – and he won’t – but when we do, our lives change completely.