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What does it mean to love God above all else?
100,1. I see one who comes and speaks: It would be all right, but how should one realize this one Divine word to God Himself? How could one truly love God, and above all else? Should one be so in love with God as a young bridegroom with his beautiful and rich bride? Or should one be in love with God, like a mathematician with a mathematical calculation or an astronomer with his stars? Or should one be in love like a speculator with his commodity, or a capitalist with his money, or a sovereign with his dominions, or even like a ruling monarch with his throne? These are the only possible standards of serious human love, for the children's love of their parents cannot be properly established as a serious measure of love, as the example teaches that children can leave their parents to either build a good marriage or to gain much money or to take a high honorary position. With all this, the love of the children returns to their parents and must necessarily take a more powerful place. Therefore, only the most powerful standards of human love are given here, and then it is asked, by which one should one actually measure the love of God?
100,2. But if somebody comes and says: Like this or that, I say: friend! That cannot be.
100,3. It is true that the most powerful measures of love I have quoted are probably the only ones according to which man's greatest power of love can be measured; but when it is said that one should love God above all, that wants to say as much as: more than anything in the world.
100,4. So, how does one begin to raise love unto a power of which no human spirit can form any measurable or comparable concept? One will say, for example, that one should love God even more than his own life. Here I say in objection: With the love of one's own life, the highest love for God holds out even less of a comparison than with the love of the children for their parents. Because it is already well known that the children do not risk their lives out of love for their parents; on the contrary, they expect of the parents to fight for them for life and death.
100,5. The self-love of children is usually far more powerful than their love towards their parents. But we see, on the other hand, that the children of men often put their lives on the line for the sake of other benefits.One is sailing across the ocean on stormy nights, another is facing the line of fire of the enemy's army, and a third often goes to the unstable abysses of the earth to fetch metallic treasures. And so we see that these external worldly-earnest standards of human love are certainly stronger and have a more general applicability than children's love for their parents and the love of their own lives.
100,6. But of what use are all these standards, if far above them, the love for God should stand on such a level, against which all other love measures should sink back into pure nothingness? See, my dear friends and brothers, our objector has attacked us sharply, and we will have to stand up with much vigor in order to win against the opponent's overweight.
100,7. But I just see a very serious-looking opponent again. This one is sure of his victory and says: Oh, we will deal with this objector soon, because the Lord has even given us the explicit standard of how to love God. Therefore, I need say nothing other than what the Lord Himself has said, namely, "He who keeps my commandments, it is he who loves Me." - This is the actual measure of how to love God.
100,8. If the objector has enough sharp and strong teeth, he should still try to set up some other unbeatable measure. Good, I say, the objector is still around and makes an effort to bite the bit with this objection. So we want to listen to him and see what he's going to say. He speaks:
100,9. Good, my dear, friendly opponent! In the presentation of your objection, you have shown to me according to your measure of the highest love of God, nothing but that you have a fairly good memory, by quoting so many texts from the Holy Scriptures. But see, whoever wants to receive life from all the texts, not only has to know them, but should also be able to vividly perceive their meaning.
100,10. What would you say, if I spoke to you from the mouth of the Lord Himself, not just one, but several objections to it, according to which the Lord Himself presents the love from the fulfillment of the law as insufficient? Although you make a face now, as if you want to say: Such texts should probably be sparsely scattered in Scripture. But I say to you: Dear friend, not at all. Just listen to me, I want to bring you half a dozen, if you want it.
100,11. Are you aware of the Lord's talk with the rich youth? Does not he ask: "Master, what shall I do to win eternal life?" What does the Lord answer? You speak triumphantly: The Lord says, "Keep the commandments and love God, and you will live!" Good, I say, but what does the youth say? He says, "Master, I have kept that since my childhood."
100,12. That’s all right. But why, I ask, did the boy give this answer to the Lord? He wanted to tell him this: Although you have kept all this from your childhood, you still feel nothing of the wonderful eternal life in Me.
100,13. Why does the Lord then not explain to the youth the attitude of the commandments for the attainment of eternal life as sufficient, but at once makes a very tremendous addition, saying, "So sell all your goods, distribute them among the poor, and follow Me!
100,14. Question, if the Lord thus makes such an addition, are the observation of the laws then the highest love for God? See, there's a catch, but let's move on!
100,15. What does the Lord say to His apostles and disciples when He introduces and preaches to them the duties to be fulfilled? He speaks nothing but the simple, very meaningful words: "But if you have done all things, confess that you are lazy and useless servants.
100,16. I ask you now: does the Lord here explain the obedience to the commandments as sufficient, while He evidently declares that every man who completely fulfills the law should consider himself completely useless? See, there is already a second, even greater problem. But let us continue!
100,17. Do you know the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in the temple? The Pharisee joyfully gives himself the faithful testimony before the sanctuary, that he, unlike many others, has fully fulfilled the law of Moses in all its aspects. The poor publican in a remote corner of the temple, by his immensely humble position, faithfully shows to every observer that he did not manage to fulfill the conditions of the Mosaic Law, for he dare not even to look up to the sanctuary of God due to his many sins, but confesses even its worthlessness before God and pleads for mercy and grace.
100,18. Surely I would like to know about you, my dear literal friend, why, if the law is sufficient, the Lord here lets the Pharisee, who strictly observe the whole law, stay unjustified and lets the poor, sinful publican go from the temple justified?
100,19. See, if you look at this in the right light, it seems as if the Lord Himself has created a third great problem with the strict observance of the law. You now shrug and do not know what you should make of it. Do not worry about it, it does become even better! So just continue.
100,20. What would you say, if I would quote to you from the Scriptures, and indeed from the mouth of the Lord Himself, a text according to which He indirectly invalidates the whole law and sets for it a completely different aid, through which He alone guarantees the acquisition of eternal life?
100,21. You speak now: Good friend, I also want to hear this text. Shall have him soon, my dear friend! What does the Lord say when He found a child by the wayside, picked him up, pressed him to His heart and cuddled him? He says: "If you do not become like this child, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven!"
100,22. Question: Did this child, who had barely spoken a few words, ever study the laws of Moses and then strictly arranged his life accordingly? There is no person in the world so stupid who could say that. Question: How could the Lord here, as the supreme motive for the gaining of eternal life, designate a child who had never dealt with the law of Moses ever before? Friend, I'll say nothing more than this: try to raise an objection against this. You are silent. So I see that with your lineup you have already retreated quite low into the background with this fourth problem.
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