“I want somebody to love me for who I am.” Nick Jonas
I know it is cliche that I am writing about love right around Valentine’s Day. But God spoke something so clearly to me this morning that I couldn’t help but to pass it on to you. Please don’t read into what I’m not saying! Then again, if you do, you’ve already missed the whole point anyway.
We have all read the famous verses on love in I Corinthians 13 but let me repeat them again here from the NLT (just in case you typically read a version of the Bible that is hard to understand): “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like the loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.” This passage hits basically every facet of Christianity from those who call themselves “missional” to the “Word” people to those who are “Spirit-filled.” There’s something here for all of us to think about and apply to our lives.
I realized this morning that I could teach my kids to go to church, to listen to Christian music continually, to give their money in the offering and read their Bibles but if they didn’t really love God, it wouldn’t amount to anything but legalism. Don’t get me wrong, we should do these things. All of these actions have merit. All of these duties will facilitate love of our Father but these things are not love. These actions are not the end but the means to the end. They are not the final product or the ultimate goal. A heart communing with the Lover of our souls is what we should desire. Daily communication about our lives and obeying what He wants for us is love. Loving His children the way He does is His plan.
In marriage, we do things for our spouses because we love them. But what if there was no love there? What if we just went through the motions? We could serve one another by bringing home a paycheck or keeping the household going. We can cook a meal and fix the car because, well, that’s what you are supposed to do when you are married. We can even be intimate with each other and go through the motions of love but we can actually do all this without love. Yeah, we have a marriage. It is legal and even productive. But a marriage without love is not really a marriage at all because it misses the whole point.
Jesus said,“You cast out devils in my name but I never knew you.” The people basically said, “Lord, we did all of these things FOR you! We were spiritual and also reached out to help others. We covered all the bases.” But Jesus said, “You didn’t really know me. We were not intimate. You did all the right motions but your heart was far from me.” Matthew 7
I have been thinking a lot about different doctrines and theologies lately. I have been re-affirming my beliefs and studying the Scriptures to find a solid basis for them. And I have found there to be many areas of confusion, doubt and misinterpretation in what various Christians believe. Basically, if you want to believe something, there is probably a Scripture somewhere to back you up! (I am not trying to make light of the Scriptures or mock them. I am simply pointing out the many doctrines you can find in the Bible.) In fact, many of the pastors I follow believe different doctrines than me. This is something I have been pondering and processing for a long time.
But the Lord spoke so clearly to me this morning. It’s like He said, “What did I say??! I told you what was important! It’s as clear as day! You don’t have to study to find it or have a degree in Greek or Hebrew. You don’t have to argue with others and try to make your point. I MADE MY POINT! I said it so many times but I will say it again since so many people have missed it: Love Me with all your heart, mind and strength and love everybody else too. How hard is that?”
Apparently, it is pretty difficult or we wouldn’t be searching for other ways to measure up or to please God like Paul talked about in I Corinthians 13.
And what I love about God boiling it all down to love is that anyone can love. You don’t have to be a pastor or a seminary graduate. He didn’t put it so high that normal people can’t reach it. Yet, love encompasses everything! It is simple but so deep. Anyone can do it. I can love people across the world that I don’t even know and will never meet by praying for them and sending missionaries and money and supplies. I can love mean old ladies by not getting mad when they accost me for no reason (see last post.) I can even love my husband by cleaning his closet out because I know he doesn’t like to.
Here’s a few of the things the Bible says about love; “Love covers. Love is our highest goal. The greatest of these is love. By this (love) everyone will know you are My disciples. Love as I have loved. We show we are servants of God by our pure lives, by love. You should pursue love. Do everything in love. Circumcision is not important but faith that works through love. Always be humble, accepting one another in love. This is my command:love each other as I have loved you. The person who has loved others has obeyed (fulfilled) the law. All these commands are really summed up in this one rule:love your neighbor as yourself. Love all God’s people. Clothe yourself in love which holds you all perfectly together in perfect unity.”
I’m no Bible scholar but I believe this proves that love meets all the requirements of a “doctrine.” There may be no other act of Christians that is spoken of so frequently. We put so much emphasis on what other doctrines we believe and how we are right. I wonder if it makes God sad that we are missing the point by a million miles? How His heart must break when we get up in our pulpits and preach about how “that preacher down the road doesn’t have all the truth I have and he is a false prophet going straight to hell.” WHAT?
Is it all so simple that we have completely missed the forest for the trees? Buried within the pages of His word are so many doctrines and directives and things we all argue about but what if that one four-letter word is all that really matters? What if all the other stuff is just a test God put in there to see what we would do? To see what we would focus on? Wouldn’t it be crazy if we get before God for judgement and He simply says, “Did you love?” And we are all like “Love? Well...ummm...sorta but mostly I just held that doctrinal line! Others were not believing the correct doctrine but I did and I let them know how wrong they were! I studied Your word to make sure I knew the whole truth and I preached it hard.” And God says, “That’s not what I asked. I said, 'Did you love?'”
He even modeled it for us-gave us a Sunday School object lesson since we are so dull-when He died on the cross for us. He could have continued His life, teaching, preaching, healing the sick, ministering to the hurting-all the things we do-but because He loved us, He gave the ultimate sacrifice, His life. He showed us that it’s not about all those other things. It’s about love. Period.
Going through the motions is not what God desires of us. If our “heart is not in it” then we need to stop and re-evaluate what we are doing. Jesus said that we can do everything right and be working in His Kingdom and He will still banish us if we don’t know Him. To know Him is to love.
I weep as I write this. I am sad that I am 44 years old and just now understanding this. I want to pass this on to my children so they don’t go halfway through their lives before they get it. I don’t want them to think Christianity is all about a book and a place and a doctrine and a lifestyle and a preacher when it’s really all about a Person and one simple thing:love.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa