Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Power Of Authentic Love

What we call love in our society is pretty pathetic. It is based more on a euphoria of feelings and hormones. It can better be described as a feeding trough; as long as we are getting something out of the relationship we are happy but don't expect us to put anything into it. Love is described as how we feel, so I may be in love today but tomorrow who knows. What we claim to be love today has very little substance and absolutely no stick-to-it-ness. Today love fails because it is no love at all.

It is no different in our relationships in the Church or with God. That is quite the command he put in place when he told us to love him with our entire being and then to love our neighbour as ourself. This is a powerful thing, an incredible love, a demand of complete devotion. We rob it of its essence and make it a thing of attending church and reading our Bible but the love of which God speaks is a thing of power. Consider this as Paul continues with the Spirit's definition of love:

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

I know a lot of Christians who fail the love test with this first word describing what love isn't. I have been embarrassed countless times by my behaviour as well as the behaviour of other believers when we allow our feelings to get the better of us and we react in rudeness. In fact, there are some people who I think have never met Jesus because of their daily wrong behaviour in this area. Teens are rude to their parents, parents are rude to the sales clerk, people are rude because someone was rude to them. Young adults should look at their love interest and if they experience rudeness in that person realize that their love is not authentic or at least not mature. There is never an excuse for being rude.

If I had to describe what passes as love today I would use the word self-seeking. People are always looking for what they can get out of a relationship instead of what they need to put into it. I think it best describes our relationship with God as we continue to treat him like a genie in a bottle. It is always what we can get out of him, including in worship. Worship is about blessing our God from a thankful heart but we come in wanting that great feeling we get from worship. If we don't get that feeling we walk away feeling dissatisfied. Love is always about what we do for others, what we do for God, what we give to that relationship. If it is about us, what we want, what we expect, what we desire then it's not love.

When I was a young adult I had an anger problem. I could become angry in an instant over the smallest thing. I could see that this was damaging to relationships and asked God to save me from it. He did this by taking me to the place of service. He showed me that love meant I was glad to serve others, to be kind, to sacrifice for the benefit of other people. This became my ambition, my desire, to love in action instead of words alone. Love replaced my anger problem so much that when I tell people who know me today that I had an anger problem when I was younger they don't believe me. Most claim that I am a very patient man and I hope I am but I know I have a long way to go in my understanding of God's love. One thing I do know, anger has no part to do with love. A quick temper does not belong in the Body of Christ.

I believe with all my heart that forgiveness is a key ingredient in all relationships, but not a forgiveness that simply sets the offence aside. A forgiveness that comes from love removes the offence and never brings it up again. That kind of forgiveness makes a conscious decision to live like it never happened. So many relationships accumulate a ton of baggage along the way, never forgetting even though forgiveness was offered. Every time there is a disagreement a list of past offences are read out but love doesn't do that. Love doesn't keep score. Love offers authentic forgiveness so that there is also complete reconciliation and trust again. Love does not accumulate baggage but instead travels through life without even the carry-on bags.

Now can you imagine the power of this love shown to the world through the Church? Can you imagine what the Church would look like if we lived so that love is patient, love is kind? Can you begin to imagine relationships in the Church where love did not envy or boast and was not proud? Could you imagine authentic love in the Church so that people were not rude, self-seeking, easily angered and kept no record of wrongs? Are you beginning to see that our wimpy sentimental version of love is no love at all but is rather ugly compared to the authentic love of God?

It doesn't matter how much we try we cannot produce this authentic love in ourselves. We cannot wake up today and say "Hey, I am going to be more authentic in my love". They only way we can possess it is if it is produced in us by the Holy Spirit and this happens when we are completely sold out to Jesus Christ, living like we have died to ourselves. But that's a different posting. It is enough for now to desire this greater love and to seek it from God with all our being. If it is really the desire of your heart then Jesus will take you to the depths of his love where you will learn to love as he has loved us.

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