First of all, it is only believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who can love God with all their heart. Before one trusts in Christ for salvation, their hearts are at enmity with God. Romans 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Colossians 1:21 is even stronger, “And you, that were enemies in your mind by wicked works.” So, until one is born again they have no capacity for loving God; they are ENEMIES OF GOD! We also can’t love our fellow-man as we should. Listen to these solemn words in Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves also were sometimes disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in MALICE and ENVY, HATEFUL, and HATING ONE ANOTHER.” Such is the state of every human heart before it is regenerated by the grace of God!

Now let’s consider two precious verses in 1st John 4. In verse 10 we read, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (NKJV). And then verse 19 says, “We love, because He first loved us” (NASB). Do you see what these verses are teaching us? We had no love for God, but He loved us in spite of ourselves and proved that love by sending His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins. Once we believe that God “first loved us,” we then have the capacity to love; to love God and to love others. 1st John 4:8 states, “God is love,” and when we become a child of God we have His very nature and can then love Him and our fellow-man. The believer is also indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we read in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love….”

To answer your question then, children of God can indeed “love God with all of our heart,” and at the same time we can “love our parents, kids, and other family and friends.” But we need to emphasize that our love for God comes first. Jesus taught this in Matthew 22:37-38, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (NKJV). If we fail to “love God first,” we will surely fail to love anyone. Jesus went on to say in verse 39, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is our “second responsibility” when it comes to love; we are to love our fellow-man just as we love ourselves. This is not limited to parents, kids, family and friends; we are to LOVE ALL MEN! But what if they are cruel to me and hard to love, you may be thinking? Again, the ability we now have to love is NOT from ourselves, but from the new nature and the Holy Spirit that have been given unto us. Remember, we saw in 1st John 4:10 that God loved us when we were UNLOVABLE, so we too are to love those who  aren’t deserving of our love. It should be noted too that “love is not a feeling,” love is a matter of the will where we make the choice to show love and kindness to another.

Before we close this short meditation, I want to point something out. At times our love for God may cause men to think that we are neglecting to love our family. In Luke 14:26 Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (NKJV). This passage has puzzled many people, including Christians, for it sounds like Jesus is actually teaching His disciples to HATE OTHERS, which would contradict what we just read in Matthew 22:39. But in reality He is saying, “Your love for Me must be so great that BY COMPARISON YOU WILL APPEAR TO HATE OTHERS.” In essence He is telling us that we must follow Him at all costs and not allow others to hinder us in obeying Him. If we know He is telling us to do something and a family member is telling us not to do it, we must yield our hearts and minds to Christ and obey Him. It may appear to our family and friends that we HATE THEM, but in truth we are LOVING CHRIST FIRST AND FOREMOST.  (195.5)  (DO)