Think you know how to be a Christian?

You go to church every Sunday. You read your Bible in the morning as you sip coffee before work. You pray every night before you sleep, tithe each week, and even talk to a stranger about your faith every now and then.

But even as you do these things, do you really know what God wants from you? Do you know the why behind your Christianity?

This question may have struck you as you lay awake in the night, a sudden and frightening realization that you really have no idea what your God truly wants. What is His purpose? What’s the overall plan? What could the omnipotent creator of an entire universe—a creator that can, literally, have anything He wants—possibly desire?

You’re not alone in asking this question. King David wondered the same thing in Psalm 8: 3-4, where he puzzles, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” If he can ask this eternal and important question, so can we.

While many pastors and faith leaders touch on these subjects, few explicitly answer the question of what God wants. It’s time to find out.

To sum up the complex matter of God’s desires, as we can understand them, we can look to one word: relationship. God didn’t need to create mankind. He wasn’t lonely before we arrived on the scene—He already had company in the Son and the Holy Spirit, as well as the angels. He didn’t have a craving for tributes or sacrifices or even worship. His life was perfect, as-is.

No—to find out what God wants, we can look at what He asks of us. In Mark 12:30-32, Jesus explains God’s two greatest commandments: “’And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

What God wants, when it comes to you, is simple. He just wants you. He wants a loving relationship with His earthly children, and He wants us to take that vertical love and make it horizontal, taking His cue and treating our fellow human beings with love and respect. In short, He wants us all to be one, big, happy family.

That’s it—love is absolutely the foundation of everything God does. 1 John 4:8 says it outright: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” He created you so that He might love you, and so that you might love Him. Everything in scripture points to this.

Consider your very ability to choose. In the beginning, God gave the first two humans the choice to be in relationship with Him or not. Ultimately—and unfortunately for us—we chose self-rule rather than remaining within God’s perfection. But the fact that we hold the ability to engage with God or reject Him shows that He desires a real relationship with us—He didn’t create humankind for slavish, forced love and worship.

And even when His wrath descends upon us, it is not abuse or petty vengeance—it is guidance that goes no further than necessary in order to keep us from harming ourselves in the long run. He gives us His good laws and commandments not to control us, but because He knows that following them will give us the best lives possible. This is why “love” doesn’t mean “permissiveness—sometimes God’s love looks like punishment.

But that doesn’t mean that God wants us to constantly cower in fear of His hand. The Bible mentions “fearing” the Lord, but the Hebrew word that translates to “fear,” doesn’t simply mean “to be afraid.” It also means “to stand in awe of,” and carries connotations of reverence, respect, and honor.

He doesn’t want our fear. He wants our love. This is the beating heart of Christianity.

It is vital to internalize this idea, to place it at the center of your worldview so that it affects everything you do, inside and outside of church. Have you ever heard people speak of that “something” that makes Christians stand out, that makes outsiders ask, “What is it that’s different about that person?”

That’s love they’re talking about, and it’s what draws those outside the church toward a relationship with God. Remember 1 John: 4-8? It doesn’t just say that God is love. It says that whoever does not know love, does not know God. This means that when we’re unkind to others for not being of our faith, we don’t know God. When we turn our backs on the suffering of others, we do not know God. When we take pleasure in the idea of someone going to hell, we do not know God.

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