Thursday, August 19, 2010

God is Love

So, I’m sitting in a hard folding chair on a Wednesday night, innocently going about my weekly retinue, completely naive to the fact that my life is about to be forever changed. I was just a young middle schooler with a freckle-covered face and bushy, red hair. As was my custom, I was sitting in our church’s regular children’s ministry, of which my dad was head.

Now, for you to fully appreciate this story you have to understand a little bit about my dad. He grew up as a missionary kid in the deserts of Peru. Growing up in a Third World nation has made him a very practical and down to earth sort of guy. He’s the type of speaker that can take a far out, theoretical concept and make it practical for every day life.

Dad’s also a big advocate of that childlike faith Christ kept talking about. To him, the accepted theological standards of modern Christendom are second (maybe even third or fourth) to the Word of God. While a very respectful and chivalrous man, my dad doesn’t have a qualm about defying the status quo if he feels the Bible and the status quo don’t quite get along.

That leads us to Wednesday night. So far, my day had gone pretty normally. I’ve played some dodgeball, recited some memory verses and colored a really cool picture of Moses parting the Red Sea. Then it was time for the Bible lesson.

My dad walked up to the little wooden podium, pulled out his Bible and began teaching. A few sentences into the lesson and the room became deathly silent. The message was so radical that it had the parents and teachers scratching their head. But it so fundamental that it had the little kids were challenged and encouraged.

Since then, I’ve heard my dad preach this sermon many times. I’ve heard it two different languages and in multiple contexts. It’s become my dad’s signature sermon. And yet, despite being able to quote the outline by heart, the message has not yet lost its meaning to me.

So what was this message my dad introduced on that otherwise normal Wednesday night meeting? It wasn’t anything new or exotic. It wasn’t some radical concept no one had ever thought of before. In fact, he preached on a word that we use every single day.

He preached on love.

Yes, love. That little word that everyone uses and no one really understands. Before that Wednesday night I thought I knew what love was. As a young child, love was the way I felt when my mom hugged me goodnight. It was that mushy thing my parents had. It was the way I felt about pizza and cheesecake.

Oh boy, was I ever wrong! My dad’s message began a spiritual pilgrimage in which I went from having a worldly sense of love to having a more biblical and Jehovah-centric view of that amazing thing we call love.

This is arguably one of he most important topics of our day or any other day. The way we view love with effect nearly every aspect of our life. It is vital to every single relationship we have - from our relationship with God, to our parents, to our spouses, to our siblings, to friends, to the guy down the street and even our enemies.

In God’s holy Word, we are repeatedly told that loving God and loving others is the center of our faith. Therefore, we cannot allow this issue to pass by without being thoroughly explored. We can’t afford to simply glance over it without diving in and discovering its complexities.

Unfortunately, we're adopted a very unbiblical view of love. Not that it really matters, but our modern conception of love is rooted in Greco-Roman philosophy and mythology. Love is generally thought of as a largely physical, emotional and uncontrollable force that simply hits a person at random times.

But the Bible tells of a very different kind of love. The very fact that we are commanded to love implies that it is a choice. We either do it or we don't. Those are the only two options.

On that Wednesday night, my dad made a very interesting observation. First, he read from I John 4:8. It's a very simple statement. "God is love."

Whenever he preaches this sermon, my dad has everyone turn to II Corinthians 13 - the infamous "love chapter" - and every time the passage says charity or love, he has everyone replace it with the word God. In doing so, we see that all the expressions of love are really extensions of our Father's character.

So, why is it that we don't really understand love? It's because we don't really understand God. I think John the Beloved summed it up really nicely.

He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.

-I John 4:8

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