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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Some would describe love as a powerful emotion, while others might claim that, “love is a choice” and to some degree, there is truth in both of those statements.  There are indeed strong emotions that accompany love, though I would submit that the feelings themselves do not constitute its substance.  Likewise, there is a conscious decision involved in entrusting our hearts to someone else’s care.  Though both of those elements are integral to the overall process, neither fully encapsulate the nature of love itself.  Ultimately, love is a relational dynamic that exists between two entities.

In western culture, we tend to gravitate toward the emotional end of the scale.  Often times, our concept of love is little more than a volume knob for our affection.  If it stirs up positive feelings, we say that we “like” it, but if it stirs up intensely positive emotions, we claim to “love” it.  But again, love amounts to more than just the magnitude of our feelings.

Often times the intense desire to be with someone is rooted in something other than love for them.  One can certainly be strongly attracted to another, but that would more rightly be characterized as lust.  Loneliness, or the fear of being alone can produce extreme emotions, just as hurt and insecurity can, but they rarely produce healthy, loving relationships.  More often, they result in unbalanced, emotionally manipulative, or co-dependent dynamics that are ultimately destructive. 

One of the byproducts of the sexual revolution is a quid-pro-quo aesthetic, where relationships are largely viewed as vehicles to get what we want out of life.  Instead of finding the value in a partner, we look for ways to leverage each other, both emotionally and practically.

We can love what someone brings to our life (e.g. stability, support, security, the feeling of being wanted…), without ever really loving them.  In such cases, that person becomes a tool for our pursuit of happiness.  Their job is to fulfill whatever role we assign them in our lives, but their value is in the results they produce.  If that diminishes, they can be replaced by someone who produces better results.  It’s like trading your phone in for a newer model.

Aside from the strong emotions involved, there are the mechanics of the relationship itself.  People can have genuine affection for one another, but divergent perspectives, value systems, and/or goals, which can create an almost constant discord.  It is said that opposites attract, but that doesn’t mean that they live happily ever after.  It is a rare relationship that can sustain that type of relentless conflict, and just because we possess strong feelings for someone doesn’t mean that the relationship can overcome it. 

I believe that this is why the scripture admonishes that spouses should be equally yoked.  In biblical times, a yoke was a rigid piece of wood.  If the oxen weren’t moving at the same pace, the faster one was carrying the entire load.  If they were moving in even slightly different directions, they were literally pulling against each other.  I would suggest that this passage is saying something more than simply Christians should only marry other Christians.

The Bible gives a very clear definition of what love is, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.(1Cor.13:4-7)” 

If you read those words slowly, and thoughtfully, they can be pretty intimidating.  Is this how the people we claim to love would describe our demeanor toward them?  For that matter, would any of us claim that these are characteristic of the “love” we profess to have? 

To that end, we like to rationalize that the love described in the scripture is really just God’s (agape) love, and that we simply possess some lower form of (Eros or Philo) love.  We further like to dissect it into categories like brotherly/sisterly love, and romantic love; and then blur the lines even further with statements like, “I love them, but I’m not in love with them…”. 

Ultimately, God takes these caveats away with the command to, “love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)”.  The God who is love, specifically tells us what love is to Him, and then lets us know that He expects us to love one another that way.  He makes no provision for some lower form of affection or fascination, which is too often characterized by traits like selfishness, vanity, envy, manipulation, scorekeeping and destructiveness; all of which are so directly counter to His definition that they could not be considered a watered-down version of the same.

Considering that the Lord Himself boiled down the whole of the law to the quality of our love (for Him and for each other), and that He said that the way people will be able to distinguish His children was by the love they have for one another, our concept of what “love” is makes a huge difference.  Perhaps, our understanding of what love is can be enhanced by considering what it is not:

It’s Not Really Love

It’s not really love

just because I was stirred at the first sight of you

*

and

It’s not really love

simply because I like the way you make me feel

*

and

It’s not really love

just because you fill a void in my existence

*

and

It’s not really love

simply because I appreciate all that you’ve done for me

*

and

It’s not really love

just because I feel drawn to you

*

and

It’s not really love

simply because I like to think of you as mine

*

and

It’s not really love

just because I want what you bring to my life

*

no

It’s not really love

until it stops being about what I think I want or need

*

and

It starts being about who You are

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We can easily get into the weeds with our theology and doctrine, but unless we get this one thing right, the rest won’t matter.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27)

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39)

People will know you are my followers by the way you love one another (John 13:35)

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar (1 John 4:20)

love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be childrenof your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:44-45)

These three remain: faith, hope & love.  But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13)

Love one another, as I have loved you (John 13:34)

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself as love (Gal. 5:6)

If I have not love, I have nothing (1 Cor. 13:3)

If I have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2)

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If love is not proud & does not boast; if it does not envy & keeps no record, then it also has no basis on which to ever be competitive

 

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Every Minute

of

Every Day

We have the choice

 

Love or Hate

Fear or Faith

Hope or Despair

Teardown or Buildup

Unity or Division

Self or Others

Compassion or Apathy

Criticism or Encouragement

Persevere or Quit

Deception or Truth

Life or Death

 

These threads weave together to form the fabric of our existence

 

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I’ve long held that our society’s definition of the word “love” has significantly eroded over the course of time; and that despite the fact the passage, “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…” is still recited at most weddings, these characteristics have become incredibly rare in most relationships.  Similarly, the meaning of the word “hate” has also evolved considerably in recent years.  This term, which used to be reserved for extreme instances of acrimony, has now become a part of our daily vernacular.  A teacher who tells a student to sit down and quit disrupting the class is considered to be “hating” on them.  A person who doesn’t “like” my post of Facebook is branded a “hater”.  And now a person who espouses an opposing worldview is regularly accused of spreading “hate”.  Despite all the high minded rhetoric that is spewed about “tolerance”, its seems to be in precious short supply for anyone who may have drawn a different conclusion than we have.

 

With such an under-developed sense of what love is, and such an exaggerated sense of what hate is, we probably shouldn’t be shocked that people are routinely gunning each other down in the streets.

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When I was a child, I was very sensitive and emotional; which kind of sounds funny since I don’t suppose that I’ve ever stopped being those things.  But somewhere along the way I figured out that wearing my heart on my sleeve and allowing everything to penetrate my soul, was not the most expedient way to live.  The first step was suppressing the urge to express every thought that came into my head and eventually I began to develop my mind as a way of heading off those powerful emotions.  I learned to anticipate situations and to think my way through them as a defense against getting overwhelmed by circumstances.

 

It is interesting how dramatically that changed the face of who I was.  As a child I was driven by the winds of my feelings, while as an adult I have largely been driven by pragmatism and my own sense of what is “reasonable”.  Though I doubt many men would express it this way, I would guess that most have gone through some sort of similar process.  If you’re ever around little boys, you’ll find that most start out as emotional, expressive and affectionate; while grown men generally exhibit limited evidence that this was ever the case.

 

At the point I became serious about living for the Lord, I immediately found Him pushing me back towards this sensitivity.  I felt as though He said that this was part of how He designed me; that my gifts were wrapped up in that sensitivity and that a childlike heart was the only way I’d experience His kingdom.  While I understand that He doesn’t want me to be driven by my emotions, I have found that He is equally dissatisfied with idea that I would be guided by my rational thoughts.

 

God and His kingdom far exceed the bounds of my natural mind’s ability to understand them and to rely on my thoughts as a guide greatly diminishes the influence He means to have in my life.  To that end, He has graciously given us His Holy Spirit, that we might have the mind of Christ and the heart of the Father.

 

As I ponder all of this, I am reminded of some things my mother taught us as children.  At a very early age she began to play card games with us.  She used this as a way to help us with our number recognition, counting and learning simple arithmetic.  It was very effective.  She started with simple games like “War”, in which we learned that an eight was greater than a seven and that a king beat a jack.  We went on to “Go Fish”, where we learned how to match pairs together.  As she taught us more complex games, we eventually came to the place where we needed to learn the concept of “trump”.  Many card games include the use of a trump suit, which is when one suit usurps the power of all the others (e.g. Spades).

 

At first it seemed a strange concept; after all, we’d just come to understand that a king was greater than a ten, and now we had to grasp that if that ten was a trump card, it nullified the king’s power.   I believe that as we mature as Believers there is a similar adjustment that God means to make in our thinking.

 

As the simple games of our childhood taught us the patterns of counting and arithmetic, so our life experiences give us a sense of the world and how it works.  Unconsciously, we’ve learned these patterns and they’ve formed boundaries within our thought processes as to what is sane, rational, reasonable or even possible.  Maybe we’ve consciously studied things like science, psychology or philosophy, to come to some greater understanding of what the boundaries for man and mankind are, but I’d submit that whatever we might have learned has given us only a small view of a picture that is greater than we can comprehend.

 

As we come into relationship with God, we find that despite all the patterns that life has taught us, He has given us some trump cards, which have the ability to usurp the power of whatever hand we’ve been dealt.  As I prayed I sensed that the three trump cards He’s given us are faith, hope and love, and that the application of any one of these into our situation has the potential to overcome what our mind has concluded to be the natural order of things.

 

As we study the scriptures, we find the power of faith, hope and love, both implicitly and explicitly expressed.  Repeatedly God reminds us of the limitations of our natural mind and exhorts us towards faith as the pathway to cross these borders.  He tells us not to lean on our own understanding; that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours; and that He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever imagine or hope for.

 

He warns us that knowledge puffs a man up; and He offers both a peace that surpasses understanding and a love that surpasses knowledge.  He tells us that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  Yet, despite these exhortations, it seems that much of Western Christianity is often more rooted in psychology than in the word of God.  Psychology can only study the pattern of human behavior as it has been, but it cannot hope to reach the possibilities of what we were created to be.  Only the Creator can show us that.

 

Much of the well-intentioned, self-help mentality within the church keeps us bound to finite worldly thinking and at the mercy of the world’s system.  Paul warned us against this when he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ”.  Jesus told us that if we had the faith of a mustard seed, that we’d be able to overcome the things that we consider to be the “laws of nature”.

 

Peter further states that love has the power to overcome a multitude of sins and Paul adds that we can possess every spiritual gift, but that if we have not love, we have and are “nothing”.  We must understand that the love they’re speaking of is God’s love and not the self-seeking human strain, which is of little value to the kingdom.  God’s love “always protectsalways trustsalways hopes and always perseveres”.

 

As we look at the apostles, we see how these forces came to bear in their lives.  When Herod imprisoned Peter, he was guarded by four squads of four soldiers; with a soldier constantly chained to each side of him.  Our natural minds would say that there was no hope for Peter, but the scripture tells us “the church was earnestly praying to God for him”.  This seems a marked contrast to how the modern western church might handle such a scenario.  We’d likely call a lawyer from the Center for Law and Justice, to defend Peter in court; circulate petitions via the internet, demanding Peter’s release; and maybe even set up a picket at Herod’s palace.

 

We seem to have forgotten that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal in nature.  The early church asserted their faith and appealed to the power that was higher than any natural law and as Peter slept, an angel came, woke him up and walked Him out of the prison.  Our natural minds cannot comprehend this, but the nature of a miracle is that it cannot be explained and is beyond what we believe to be reasonable.

 

We must understand that God’s reality is much higher than ours.  As the church prayed, they invited God and all His resources into the situation; which changed everything.  How often have we failed to invite God into our situation because we felt bound to the world system, and that the outcome was somehow inevitable?  The Lord said that we have not because we ask not.

 

We see examples of this intervention in Paul’s life as well; like the time he and Silas were praising the Lord in prison.  In so doing, they asserted their hope and faith into the situation and the Lord literally shook the earth to free them.  He is no respecter of persons, so it holds true that He will do the same for us.

 

I am certainly not advocating an empty headed walk with the Lord, but we must realize that there is a huge chasm between worldly knowledge and the knowledge of God.  Inherent in the knowledge of God is relationship with Him.  The Pharisees had devoted their life to the study of scripture, but were still unable to recognize the manifestation of truth when it stood before them.  They knew about Him, but they didn’t know Him.

 

God did not leave us to our own resources in this; He gave us His Holy Spirit to be the “Counselor”, the “Comforter” and to “teach us all things”.  He placed at our disposal all the resources of heaven, but in the church today those resources remain largely untapped.  When our natural minds come against a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, they tend to default to fear and discouragement; but God wants the hearts of His children to default to faith, hope and love.

 

When we don’t have the answers for people, He wants us to default to loving them where they’re at.  When situations look negative and hopeless, He wants us to default to placing our hope in Him and to assert our faith in prayer, by inviting Him into the situation.  He is a God who delights in making a way where there seems to be no way.

 

Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your minds in Christ Jesus”.  He also said that one day “fire will test the quality of each man’s work” and I believe when that test is done, all that will remain are those things done out of faith, hope and love.

 

While those without Christ are left only to play “War” with the world, hoping that the cards will fall their way; every child of God possesses these trump cards, which are able to overpower any cards that the world may deal.

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