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Monday, September 22, 2014

How do we love God?

Have you made confession with your mouth of one thing only to act an entirely different way when push came to shove?  I guess we all have at one time or another - pledging to do one thing, but when the rubber meets the road, we do another.  It is just like us to act a little "fickle" once in a while!  It is just human nature to "preserve" our self when the times get a little tougher to deal with than we first imagined them to be.  When it comes to loving another individual, we want to save face, come out on top, and not be "found out" for the cowards we really are.  Yep, I used a pretty strong word there - coward.  When it comes to loving another individual, we are pretty cowardly at times - not willing to face danger, difficulty, opposition, or pain within the relationship.  Face it - relationships can get pretty messy!  When it comes to facing them without fear, we don't do a very good job with this unless we rely upon Jesus within us to actually help us love with the intensity of love he shows us.  We become pretty timid and often are intimidated by the "confines" of love.  Yep, confines - the boundaries we sometimes feel which can even be a little "restraining" at times. Love is truly "messy" business, but it is the "business" we are to excel at!

God stays one with everyone who openly says that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s how we stay one with God and are sure that God loves us. God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. If we truly love others and live as Christ did in this world, we won’t be worried about the day of judgment. A real love for others will chase those worries away. The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid. It shows that we have not really learned to love. We love because God loved us first. But if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see? The commandment that God has given us is: “Love God and love each other!”  (I John 4:15-21 CEV)

If we break this "love" thing down a little, we can plainly see it begins with God and it ends where it started - with God!  As we ask Jesus to come into our lives, filling us with his intense and unconditional love, we received "true" love for the very first time into our lives.  In serving Christ each day, we are allowing this love to bring us closer to God - experiencing afresh each day the intensity and depth of Christ's love for us.  None is as close to God's heart as those who serve one another in the love Christ brings to bloom within their heart!  As a matter of fact, it is this service of love which keeps us close to God's heart - keeps our relationship vital, builds strength within it, and draws us closer into intimate fellowship with him.

If we have ever experienced this "messy" job of loving another individual, we know just how hard it can be to serve when your service seems to be one-sided, or to forgive when your forgiveness seems to be demanded over and over again.  Yes, love is not for cowards!  Falling in love with Jesus is not for cowards!  Serving others in the love of Christ is indeed not for cowards!  In fact, there isn't a kind of love worth pursuing which is for cowards - other than this thing we call "eros" love.  That is a Greek term used to describe the self-gratifying love we all possess an affinity toward just because we are human. Eros love is focused on what is in something for "me".  We don't do it, dream it, or move toward it if there isn't anything in it for "me".  Indeed, this type of love doesn't require a whole lot of courage, just the natural instinct to satisfy every craving our minds might conceive!

Two other types of love are spoken of in scripture:  Phileo and Agape, but there is a third type we experience - Storge.  Phileo love is commonly referred to as brotherly love - the type of love we enter into because we are drawn toward someone with common interests.  With Phileo love, we focus on what we have in common and share in personality traits - as when two people are best friends. Storge love is what we might call "family love" - it is based on sharing the same "genes" with another.  Somehow, just because we are "in family" with others, this type of love happens.  Moms take care of babies, babies bond with moms, siblings bond with siblings, etc.  It is just part of human nature to bond in some type of relationship - especially when it is with those we have so much in common with.

Agape love is the one love used to describe God's intensity of love.  It is more than a "natural draw" to another - it is based upon the grace of God and his intense desire to commune with his kids.  Of all the types of love, this is the one which is not natural.  It is something which comes only as Christ inhabits our hearts - it is only possible when one is in relationship with him.  It is this type of love spoken of in our passage - the type of love which chases all worries away. It is the love which binds us together with those outside of our "natural family" and allows us to serve those who may be a little less than lovable themselves! This is the type of love we are to desire above all - and the type of love we are to have govern our thoughts, intentions, and actions.

God places us within love relationships here on this earth, not so much because we need them, but because we cannot learn to love God as he loves us until we are serving another out of the love he places within our hearts.  We need another to reveal the intensity of love God has for us, just as much as they need to see and experience this same love from us.  My pastor puts it this way:  We need a "God with a bod" in order to understand fully what his love is like.  It is only as we serve one another that we finally connect with the heart of God. I don't know where you will serve today, or who you will touch, but every action today is a means of serving a heaping helping of God's love upon someone's life!  Just sayin!