Monday, March 20, 2006

A New Title

We all have heard the phrase that our God is a God of love. Usually it is heard in the same sentence explaining some life choice that is not clearly sanctified or accepted in general practice. This phrasing leads many to think of God as a type of mythological Greek God on the order of Eros. A God of love who ordains and controls the actions and pursuits of love. North American Christians especially, have allowed this particular character trait of God to become the defining trait, to the exclusion of the rest. Scripture clearly allows the description of God’s character to include holiness, justice, faithfulness, mercy, integrity, honesty, righteousness and love. When camping on the trait of love to the exclusion of the rest of God’s traits, He becomes less. And in that way we all have made Him in our image and to our liking. A God of love serves the purposes of our desires for our selves in a way that, for example, a God of honesty, could never do. Part of the reason for this is that we have a firmer and tighter understanding of what constitutes these other characteristics. Justice is understood to be fairness in matters legal. Each of us wants to be treated with the utmost fairness. We want to be able to tell our entire account and to be understood and judged in light of all the circumstances. Justice is a tightly defined term and we are generally all in favor of that understanding.
When looking at the term love, however, the field of play widens, turns and vacillates. Love is understood to be many things; a feeling, a right, a commitment, a reason to act. It can have one or many objects; last forever or for mere hours; be outside of the rules or uphold them. It is the formlessness of the definition of love that gives rise to the difficulty in understanding it as God has revealed it.
If we are to understand love as the Creator of love has defined it we must look to Him for that definition. The parameters of love are found throughout scripture. They are formed from the other attributes of God. His justice, faithfulness, righteousness and holiness are sources in the search to determine the boundaries of love Many passages in Scripture deal with love. From the classic: “God is love” in I John 4:16 to the well-known passage in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...” there are scads of verses that are useful in determining what God means when He speaks of love.
From these and other verses we can begin to find the outlines of this love. From1 John 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loves us, sent his Son..” we can see that Love originates and proceeds from God. He is, therefore, the only one who can determine its correct context and application. Love is also seen to be active here in this verse and in others, specifically showing the action of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. That sacrifice was borne out of love for the lost people of God’s creation.
Another passage teaches us that we cannot love God without Him initiating love to us. 1Jo 4:19 “ We love because God loved us first.” The idea that our love is dependant is included in this verse, which shows our loving to be derived from our creator and not independent of His influence and action From loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, to loving our neighbor as our self we learn love is an outward action that encompasses the whole of who we are. Another guideline, found in 1John 2:5 lets us know that loving God will be evident in our care to listen to Him.
Some of the guidelines are prohibitive, or lead us away from loving some things. 1John 2:15 lets us know one thing we are not to love the world. Not all things are to be loved. That which intrinsically opposes the character of God is not to be loved. Therefore, various types of evil are not objects or partners in love. Additionally, those objects of love that are not intrinsically evil, but which lead one from God are considered forbidden in the arena of love. Think of the statement: “For the love o f money is the root of all evil...” 1Tim 6:10. Loving a thing or person above loving God is also seen as evil and idolatrous. The Great Commandment, as Jesus calls it, is to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. Anything less is sin. So we learn that loving any one or any thing above God leads you away from God and is therefore sin and wrong. Love can be wrongly used. We are to love our spouses. That action of love is further defined in scripture and leads us to see that we are to love one spouse and remain faithful to that one person, treating them as the Creator has instructed.
If we are to love as love is meant to be, it will mean doing so as outlined by the Creator. I t is these parameters that we must learn from God in order to love as love was meant to be.
Although this is brief, the idea of a God who loves replacing the God of love appears to me to convey the ideas of Scripture clearly and in a way which is less confusing than currently practiced. What do you think?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Now What?

I would like some feedback on this. A good friend of mine is currently in Ethiopia with a short term medical mission group. Upon reading some of what she is experiencing, I was caught up short. The misery that exists in this world, of which I am unaware, is staggering. I know that God is ruler over all, that He loves His creation and His creatures. The struggle for me is knowing how to respond to the misery. Several scriptures provide a starting point. In Acts 17:27 it states:
17:26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. So the location of my nation was a decision made by God.
Add to that the many scriptures that enjoin us to care for those less fortunate and in troubling circumstances. Then recall the scripture; Mat 26:11 " You will always have the poor with you, but you won't always have me. " From the mouth of Jesus we have that statement of fact. Poverty, it seems, will never be eradicated. The crux of the matter for me is to what, as followers of Jesus, are we called. How much should we attempt to know? I am nearly undone this morning after having simply read an email about some of the experiences my friend has had.
Any input????