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Matthew Bauer
 

Matthew's Blog

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Afraid to Love

afraidtolove Is it just me, or have we lost the meaning of love in our society?  When I was a kid, there was a big difference between love and like.  To love someone meant so much more than to like them – even more than to really like them a lotLove was reserved for something special.  It was the ultimate expression of affection, and it meant something covenantal and unconditional.

Nowadays, movies, the Internet, and high school locker rooms have so cheapened love, that it hardly means a thing anymore.  We’re quick to tell anyone we love them, especially in the church.  But whatever happened to “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.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)?

Love just doesn’t mean what it used to.  And it’s lost its age-old expression, as modeled for us by God Himself.  Love’s become physical.  It’s become hypocritical.  It’s become such a misused expression that people are no longer compelled to Christ by our love.  People no longer “know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35).  But where did it go wrong?

It seems to me, the church is as much to blame as our secular society for love’s demise.  We’ve struggled so much with God’s command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44, Proverbs 25:21-22), that we decided loving and liking were somehow independent from each other – that we can love someone without actually liking them.  And I don’t know, perhaps it’s possible to love someone you hate, but to me, that seems like a strong contradiction in terms.

There’s an old rabbinic teaching about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.  As the story goes, Israel had just crossed through the sea on dry land, and the Lord caused the sea to close up over the Egyptian army.  The angels were rejoicing over the victory, when God gave a strong rebuke, “Why do you rejoice?  Stop your celebration, for those were my children, too!”  It certainly makes you think about who our enemies really are. 

In Ephesians 6, we learn that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (verse 12).  But does that really mean we are to love those who persecute us?  Who offend us?  Who disrespect us?  Who are just plain inconsiderate and annoying?  Jesus said that “no one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for another.” (paraphrased from John 15:13).  But because we just couldn’t deal with having to show that kind of love to our enemies, we came up with the idea that love is not conditional on liking someone. 

And perhaps that’s where so many people get the idea that God doesn’t like them, even though they know He loves them.  Do you really think, with all the galaxies and planets, with all of creation and with the paradise of Heaven, that the God who holds all of creation in the palm of His hand would choose to dwell among us on this tiny little planet we call Earth, that He would choose to live in our hearts if He didn’t like us?  Do you think He would have anything to do with us if He didn’t think we were truly special and delightful – if He didn’t think we were the best thing He ever created – if He wasn’t madly in love with us?

OK, so that was a slight bunny trail there, but do you get my point?  When God said love, He meant love!  And that means each of those things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, and it means putting others first, and it means blessing the people who we just don’t see eye-to-eye with.  That’s love.  And if we can find it in ourselves to actually, truly love one another, perhaps people will once again be drawn to Christ by our example. 

We pray so much for revival.  We pray so much that God will come down and change things for us – that He will make the world around us a better place – that He’ll make it easier for us to live as Christians by converting, or at the very least scaring away, all the heathens and evildoers around us.  But God has given us the charge to make disciples.  He’s given us the charge to love our neighbor (even when our neighbor is a Samaritan).  He’s given us the charge to love even our enemies, because He knows that it’s His love in us that will change the world. 

So perhaps if people stop seeing the church for everything we’re against (and therefore seeing us as the hypocrites we so often seem to be), and if they start seeing the true love of God moving in and flowing from our lives, perhaps then we’ll see the change we’ve been praying for.   Perhaps then we’ll see revival.  Perhaps then even our enemies will become friends.  Perhaps then we’ll see God’s Kingdom come on Earth.

Posted: 7/10/2010 11:32:15 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


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