Across the Pastor’s Desk: What God really wants from us

Published 8:00 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Kent Otterman

What does God want? God wants to have a loving relationship with us. He is, after all, our creator. We are not highly evolved pond scum. Molecules-to-man evolution is a myth and also incredibly bad science. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  And mankind was the pinnacle of God’s creation. Having been created in the image of God, human beings are capable of knowing God and having a loving relationship with him. But sin got in the way of that close, loving relationship with God because God is not just love. He is also holy.

Kent Otterman

Jesus came into our world to save us from our sin, not only so we could have a home in heaven when we die, but also that we might have a loving, meaningful relationship with God in this life.  And God is the initiator of this loving relationship. John writes, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:10).  And so we respond to God’s love by loving him in return as well as loving other people. “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

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Jesus speaks about the kind of relationship he wants to have with us in the 15th chapter of John: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:1, 4, 9-10).

Remaining (abiding) in Christ is what God desires, but this is a challenge for us because, to quote a traditional confession of sin, “we are by nature sinful and unclean.” To remain in a close, loving relationship with Christ requires a humble, repentant heart and a desire to be obedient to God and his word. God knows our struggle with sin. But if we are willing, he will empower us with his Spirit to “remain in his love” through obedience.

One father has written, “After 17 years of being a parent, I think I know what I value most about my children: our relationship. Sure, it’s nice when they score baskets or play beautiful music on the piano. I like it when they bring home good grades or write something profound for a school paper. And it’s rewarding when people comment how nice they look or act in public. But what really keeps a tired dad going is a loving smile, a big hug and four choice words: ‘I love you, dad.’ It’s something like what goes on between God and us. He wants us to work at keeping our relationship with him strong — even more than he wants us to do anything else.”

What does God want the most from you and me? A close, loving relationship. But he will never force that on us. It must be our desire as well.  

 Kent Otterman is chaplain at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea and pastor of Round Prairie Lutheran Church of rural Glenville and Faith Lutheran Church of London.