"On Loving God"
According to Bernard of Clairvaux through his book On Loving God, there are four main degrees on how to love God. These four degrees explain how love starts from within and spreads beyond the interest of man to the interest of serving God. The first degree argues that man loves himself first, and everything he does at this stage is to satisfy him. For man is born of flesh, so does he live to satisfy that flesh for his own sake. The meaning of this degree is that man will work, obey authority, and thrive to be successful to satisfy the basic needs, be able to afford luxurious things, and be able to live a secure life away from problems (Sanna & Bernard, 2011). In the real life, people work until the Sabbath Day, which the holy scriptures define as day to be kept holy. Such kind of working is not beneficial to God.
Working hard to achieve riches or to satisfy own needs ceases to be a difficult thing for the man to attain without help. As there is a realization that he cannot exist on his own, man realizes the he should depend on something to help him get what he wants. Therefore, he involves God in his life to help him prosper through his difficulties, and everything else that he may require. This is the second stage, which defines man as a weak element on his own and an entity that requires leaning on God for support. The meaning of the second degree is that man has no means of attaining all that he wants and more than he thinks, he needs God for his paths to be easier (p. 19). In the real life, application of the second degree is the situation where most people find themselves in, and they have to remember that they need God’s intervention. Before loving God fully, all people tend to be ungrateful in one way or another or they tend to remember God more, when they are in a situation they need help in. Help from God can be in terms of opening one’s mind to enable that person to think logically and effectively in order to bail himself from problems.
After experiencing God’s love and presence through the needs that have been done unto him, man advances to the third degree where he loves God for being God. Is there a way God can fail to be God? It is through the misinterpretation of the scripture that people think they can exist on their own as long as they feel happy and have no problems. However, God gives man a chance to repent from sin, and sees through his problems even without the need of praying or worshipping Him. In this case, when man realizes the goodness of God, he ceases from worshipping Him as his benefactor, but as the powerful God, he is. The meaning of the third degree of loving God is that man enters a phase where he stops taking God for granted, and realizes how worthy God is in his life as the creator and heavenly father (p. 31). In the real life situations, people have worship God for being the creator and the heavenly father they look up to everytime they are faced with problems, while thanking Him, in spite of what conditions they are in.
The fourth degree of loving God is the point in man’s life where everything he does is dedicated to God. This point, man loves God for God’s sake. Praying to God to assist in doing God’s work, thanking God for being a great God, asking for guidance to perform God’s work, and thriving to accomplish the missions of spreading God’s work. The meaning of this forth degree is that people, who asked God for help to cater for their needs, worked themselves out of breath to make ends meet, or realized God was great and worshipped him considering His power and loving nature; stop worrying about themselves and give themselves wholly to God (pp. 37-38). In the real life, the forth degree is applicable as means of living to serve God only besides anything else. Dedicating time, resources, and thoughts to spreading the work of God is a way of attaining full love for God.
Considering that man is made of flesh and he is born of lust of the flesh, it is not surprising to see where he starts in terms of coming to love God. As informed as people are, when committing the sin, so they are trying to make it without involving God in their ways. Difficulty times strike and the only hope they have besides their incapable friends and family is only God. When they turn to him crying and seeking help, God does not fail them therefore making them realize they should love God for being powerful and all considerate. The eternal fire will consume all that is made of flesh, and all who give everything to seeking God will be awarded with eternal life (p. 77).
Realization of the four degrees of Loving God is scholarly in nature, but attaining it is a process that requires sacrifice not only of flesh, but also of giving up everything in the name of God. With or without basic needs or human wants to make life better, when one has attained the full love for God, he ceases from being a dependent of God to being servant of God. Being a servant of God is living to serve God in all means possible as a responsibility and not as an obligation or requirement (Appendix I).