[Moved and expanded from the comments]
But what “commands” specify how we are to love God? Does love for God collapse into love for neighbor?–IOW, that’s the only command God expects us to obey as a means of showing Him love? If so, why did Jesus put love for God as the greatest command and love for neighbor second?
Interesting, very thoughtful questions. Following Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, we should note that Jesus came to set right both our vertical and horizontal relationships –
* Love God/Love neighbor
* Faith expressing itself through love
* First 4 commandments and last 6 commandments
“Faith” sets our relationship with God right by acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Messiah — but also in acknowledging the crucifixion and thus the character of God as revealed in the cross. Faith shows us why we should love God.
The prohibition on idolatry is a corollary of the fact that Jesus is Lord — and we can have no other gods before him.
However, the prohibition on graven images and the enjoining of the Sabbath are never repeated in the New Testament and no longer apply — unless we allow the graven images to become idols. (That is, graven images that interfere with our love for God are sinful.) After all, the pictures of Jesus that adorn our children’s classrooms are quite literally images — but the kids don’t worship the pictures.
Love for God means we obey his commands — right? But every time we see that stated, we’re told that the command is to love one another.
That’s because God wants us to be restored to the image of God — and the image of God is Jesus on the cross. Love and service for others is to be like God and so to be restored to his image — and that means love for God transforms us into people crucified for others.
(1 John 4:20-21) If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(Gal 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Rom 12:1) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
(Eph 5:1-2) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(1 John 4:7-10) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t expected to love God. Rather, it means that what he wants is our love — not ceremonies and rituals. And he wants our love for him to be turned out toward those he loves.
I mean, you can’t love me and hate my kids. In fact, I’d rather that you love my children than love me. I think all fathers feel that way, and God does, too. (Obviously, he wants both, but he’s not about to accept worship from someone who hates his children.)
Notice also that when the scriptures consider the assembly, the purposes we are given are stated in horizontal terms — edify, encourage, comfort, strengthen each other (1 Cor 14; Heb 10:24-25). God even takes our worship and pushes it toward his children. They need our service far more than he does. But, of course, our service for others is service for God, because it puts us in mission with God, doing for God what God wants done.
Love me? Come cut my grass. Clean my study. I mean, do for me what I want done, and I’ll appreciate it far more than if you stand outside my study and sing to me.
God isn’t an affection-starved, egocentric being begging for attention. Rather, he is a perfect being hung on a cross for our sins — in hopes that he’ll draw us to him so we can be transformed by his Spirit into loving, serving, humble people, that is, people who are just like him.
And yet we still worship him — not because we fear his anger or because some imagined law commands it. We love him so much we have to worship him. It’s not about commands. It’s about love.
Indeed, we live in the in-between times between the dawn of the kingdom and the full realization of the kingdom — and when we worship, we anticipate the perfected reality we read about in the Revelation — where God is continuously worshiped.
There is, you see, this amazing thing. As God humbles himself on the cross through Jesus and draws us to him and to be like him, we want to worship him. We feel compelled by the Spirit and the gospel to worship in Spirit and in truth.
And a bunch of commands found in the Patristics and somewhere between the lines would take all the joy out of it. The Spirit and God’s love shown through Jesus are really quite enough.
You see, Paul really meant it when he said the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal 5:6).