What is it about love that we just don’t get? Oh sure, we may say we have love for our family (maybe, depending on what kind of family we came from) and friends (depending on if they are just the fair-weather type or if they hang in there for the long haul–and not many appear to be in that category nowadays) and maybe we even have a bit of love for others like us (defined, of course, by us and who we choose to give it to), and maybe even some left over for “them.” You know, the “them” we all love to hate, or judge, or mock, or gossip about behind their backs because they aren’t just like us. Or we want something from them that we don’t have (you know, that whole arena known as envy and/or jealousy). So we throw stones . . . .
First off, we need to admit that we aren’t very good at love. Love really isn’t in our DNA. Selfishness is in our DNA. Our world gets wrapped around our “wants” (that we often excuse off as “needs”). That’s not to say that we don’t have real, genuine and legitimate needs. Food, clothing, shelter, as well as genuine compassion and love are actual needs. But mostly here in America our “wants” (e.g., bigger, better car or house; career success; showcase family; accolades; power, status and money–the list is endless in our prosperous society) cry out to be satisfied because we say we “need” them. No, we don’t. We want them. We are, mostly and unfortunately, egocentric. It’s self first (but we sure know how to disguise it). Just look at the huge number of books in any bookstore found under the title of “Self Help.” And all this “self” stuff can get down right nauseating.
If you’re read this far and you’re now offended, good. If you can lay aside the offense, I’ve got some good news for you, but it’s not about us. However, it has the ability to transform us and that is very good news. The question is whether or not we want to be transformed. And that’s a question only we, on an individual basis, can answer.
One of the things I’ve noticed in the venues of Christianity in America over the past several decades is that we have gone from a salvation that requires genuine repentance and a living and vital relationship with Jesus Christ that can really transform us to a “pseudo-salvation” that coddles us and leaves us where we started in the first place because we’ve been lead to believe that Jesus will understand that it’s just too hard for us to change. Well, of course it is!!! And we can’t do it on our own. But if we spend years living in a swamp of despondence and don’t move on in our relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who can change us, we won’t change. The change doesn’t come from us, it comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ, and it’s a relationship we should never take for granted. As long as we focus on us and what we can’t do, we will never understand that the power comes from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and that is where the change comes from. Excuses just don’t cut it, and that’s how we’ve been coddled to believe–that Jesus will understand if we never change.
Do you understand what that kind of thinking is really saying about Jesus Christ? It says that he really isn’t “all-powerful,” and that he really isn’t “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” It brings him down to our level, instead of us being lifted up to where he wants us to be. It is the reason we get this whole “love” thing wrong, because, as J.B. Phillips stated in the title of his book, “Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike” (see blog post titled “Where the Wind Blows” for reference), we have made God and Jesus Christ out to be way too small and essentially not a whole lot different from us, no matter what the words may say in the worship songs we sing on Sunday morning. In and of ourselves, we can’t change (or even if our modest attempts work temporarily they usually don’t stick) and there is no point in groveling about it for years on end when Jesus Christ has given us the answer through his death and resurrection and his words of life found in the Bible. But we have to read those words, and pray, and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ on a regular basis that goes beyond the “help me” stage. Now, there is nothing wrong with the “help me” stage, but we shouldn’t live there on a permanent basis as the main address we use when we pray to him.
In John 10:10 Jesus states:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“Full” goes beyond our normal sphere of thinking such as material possessions or “things” we can get in this life here on earth (and that doesn’t mean that they might not happen, but they are not nor should they be our focus). “Full” means more than we can think or imagine. It means living life here on earth from an eternal perspective—God’s perspective. It means having a relationship with Jesus Christ that sees beyond the obvious of what we as humans tend to focus on to the level where God operates (see 2 Peter 3:9). And that kind of relationship can’t help but change the person to whom Jesus gives this life to that he has promised to give to everyone who follows him. But it requires a living, breathing relationship with him. It requires that we take action. It requires a faith that can’t be seen (see Hebrews 11–also, for an excellent article on faith by Dena Johnson titled, “What Does it Mean to Walk by Faith?” click here). If we so choose we can ignore him and let everything in this life get in the way and that will leave us totally stunted in our relationship with him. We can wallow in self-pity–a very human trait–for years on end but the time comes when we need to grow up. We can’t stay babies in our relationship with Jesus Christ forever. Well, yes we can, if we so choose, but we will totally miss out on the life he wants us to have–a life unlike any other you’ll find here on this earth. It’s a life of freedom only found in a cross. It’s a life beyond self. And it’s the only way to find and give genuine love . . . to everybody, even our enemies.
One of the problems in our society today it that we don’t take sin seriously. If we think about what Jesus really did when he died on the cross–and the price he paid which is huge–we’d take the whole sin issue much more seriously. Sin in any form stunts us and keeps us from knowing the full power of living the life Jesus meant for us to live here on earth. We make excuses for our sin instead of repenting of it and asking Jesus to change us. While we can never totally escape our human side as long as we are here on this earth, we cannot excuse off sin as trite or irrelevant. The cross is neither trite nor irrelevant. And coddling folks when they need correction is not helpful to anybody, and it misses the mark by a mile–the consequences of which are eternal.
We can harp on the lack of love there is in this world and within Christian circles and communities and towards each other, too, but the solution has already been given to us through a relationship with Jesus Christ and if we don’t actively partake, all the harping in the world will not change us and make us more loving. The love we give to others can only come through Jesus Christ.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus Christ. Think about that. Do we really think that he can’t change that thing (read that as “sin”) in our lives that we keep stumbling over? Well, he can’t if we won’t let go of it. “Coddling” says to keep at it and excuse it off for as long as possible. “Correction” says to confess it now and let it go. “Go, and sin no more” (see the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-12). And that choice is ours.
If we want genuine love to be the focus of all of our relationships, the kind of love expressed in I Corinthians 13, we can only get it from one Person, and he’s willing to give it to us without measure. It all depends on what we want to hold onto . . . .
And if it’s anything other than Jesus Christ . . .
We lose . . .
And so does love . . . .
Chorus for “Testify to Love” (see YouTube video below):
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I’ll be a witness in the silences
When words are not enough
With every breath I take
I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” (2003) by Avalon: