Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rich Love of God

As I was saying - before I accidentally posted just my title! - I am a man obsessed with the rich, overwhelming, incomparable love of God. Although that doesn't seem very 'manly' in our 21st century Western culture, I'm finding that God's love must be the essence of every man, woman and child.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, in no uncertain terms: "For God so loved the world...."

Paul, in his letters to the Ephesians stated: "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

And of course, the great 1 Corinthians 13:13, which ends: "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

All of this ends with John's great claim in 1 John 4:16, "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. "

Our world has trivialized, marginalized, degraded and sensationalized "love" to the point that now it is categorized as just a feeling or worse, something to feared and avoided. People are afraid of love. Or worse, love is something you reserve for one person. Even Christians believe this lie. Interestingly, if I recall correctly, Jesus stated plainly: "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:12f) Amazing.

Yet there are Christians who walk around having no idea what God is asking of them. They confuse love and lust; they confuse marital commitment with being 'in love' or not being 'in love'. We just don't get it.

The Beatles were right when they sang, "All you need is love." But what does that mean for us? The infighting in churches is at an all time high. We argue over the fine points of theology, but ultimately fail the love test above. We will remove from fellowship a neighbor who questions penal substitutionary atonement, yet we tolerate those among us who actually foster discord and even, dare I say it, anger... These people hold the church hostage over whether or not it is proper to stop holding men's breakfasts and women's luncheons in favor of a block party outreach.

Lust and physical attraction will always be a part of our human life. We are biological creatures; but don't confuse this with the unquenchably rich agape of God. Indeed, it is the Spirit within us that enables us to crucify the physical passions in service to agape. This is why Paul can say "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

How can we claim to be biblical Christians, yet have lost sight of this truth? The reality is the enemy has corrupted God's concept of love in our world and reduced it to the confusing mish-mash of definitions and actions we have today. Let me challenge you to open the book again on "agape." In prayer and in study, find a way through this jungle. Do not let your lusts be confused with love. The ultimate definition of love is Jesus on the cross. Love is found in the one who lays his or her life down for the sake of the other.

Live love.