I can never ask that question without singing the song and shaking my head. Of course I realize that anyone under 25 probably doesn't understand what I'm even talking about, just a hazard of getting old I guess. Your cultural references all become seriously out of date. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Jhn 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
There is a great deal of confusion in the world today in regards to the love of God. Pastors have even preached messages and written books that the early Church would have declared as heretical. Most of this confusion comes from lifting one idea from scripture and placing it higher than all others:
1Jo 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God is love. We read this statement by the oldest surviving disciple of Jesus and we start to make assumptions about the character of God based upon it. There are a number of problems that we run into when we do this however and I would like to address a few of them in this blog.
1. Love is not the only characteristic of God.
We cannot allow a single attribute of God to become the foundation of who we think God is. The scriptures reveal to us many characteristics of God's nature and we must understand that they are all equal in God. Yes, He is love but He is also Holy and Righteous just as equally as He is love and compassion. One of God's attributes does not negate any of His other attributes. Love does not subtract or take away from God's Righteousness. Compassion does not subtract His holiness.
2. What we think love is, is not what God says it is.
We have mis-defined love time and time again. Because of this, we have taken our false ideas about what love is and applied them to the character of God. We have made love out to be something self indulgent and combined it with sex, so that ultimately love is all about how often you make me feel good about myself. This has caused us to label anything that does not pacify our fragile egos as something that is not love.
3. God works through people.
I was once one of those people who declared form the mountaintops that you didn't have to go to church to be a Christian. I had my own personal relationship with God and that was all that mattered. I believed that I could feel and experience His love in my life apart from other people. However, once I really started to read and study the scriptures I came to an amazing earth shaking conclusion. God works through people. If I wanted to truly feel and experience His love in my life I would have to be around other Christians. Not that I don't have personal moments with God by myself. I do. That being said, the most overwhelming experiences of God's love in my life have come during times of fellowship with other Christians.
When you combine these 3 things together you have a recipe for disaster. People start becoming easily offended and hurt when correction is brought to them. Generally, their thoughts go something like this:
Love would never bring correction! Besides, if God wanted to correct me He would do it Himself, not through other people! I don't need to take this abuse, I don't have to come to this building to be a Christian! I think I'll just walk this out on my own.
And so, another sheep gets separated from the flock.
I'm not saying that we always get this right. There are people out there who have been legitimately hurt by people in churches and that can take some time to heal. I just think that there are far more people who have become offended over nothing because they had wrong ideas about love and God. I pray that God starts to bring correction to both the sheep and the shepherds so that we can live out the scripture on John:
Jhn 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Just remember, love isn't always what we think it is.
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.