This message is for those of us who have been calling ourselves Christians for years and are now finding ourselves going through the motions and lacking the intimate devotion in our hearts for God on a daily basis. It’s not that we don’t love God, it’s that we take it for granted in a way. After all, what is love? We are bombarded with the word love everyday without even realizing it. Don’t you just love her new hairdo? This word has become so common to us, that we fail to recognize it’s massive significance. To be fair, the same goes for the word hate, but that’s another story.
So, how to we come back to the word love and allow it to retain the meaning it was meant to have? I think we need to start simple and then let it build. For example, I love puppies. Well, do I really love puppies or do I merely enjoy and care for them? What would I do for puppies that would exemplify my expression of love? Well, I might feed them and play with them. I might give them a place to live like a dog house or something. What if I had a puppy that conintuously cried all day and all night? Yelping and barking at nothing or everything until the neighbors started to complain? I love my puppy, so I will try to correct the situation with discipline and affection. All the while, my puppy continues to bark and cry. Well, I’m certainly not going to bring him into my house so he can bark inside all the time, much less start chewing on my furniture! I keep him in my back yard in a small fenced area, about 8’x 8′, but he seems to be outgrowing it (my puppy is a German Shepherd). The neighbors continue to complain and my puppy continues to be obnoxiously noisy. I decide that physical discipline is answer, so every time I hear him, I go out to him and pop his nose and tell him sternly, “No!” Well, that doesn’t do me much good, because he doesn’t care if his nose gets popped, and he’s getting attention from me, so he barks even more. I’ve tried everything but to no avail. I need to get rid of him.
Okay, this story seems innocent enough and it also doesn’t seem to disprove that I love puppies, does it? After all, if I love him so much as to allow him to live somewhere else even when I won’t get to see him any more, doesn’t that account for something? All I’m doing with this story is differentiating the term “love” from affection and enjoyment. Do you see the difference? I used the term love for my puppy, but I was not willing to sacrifice my own comfort to discipline him and keep him. I could have allowed him in the house. I could have fenced off my whole back yard for him to run and play. I could have sent him to obedience school. I could have bought all my neighbors earplugs! The point is, I tried for a short period of time and then I quit. That is not love. Not to a pet that can learn to be quieter and still be satisfied.
The term, Love, is not a light term, even though we seem to have made it into one. Love is the purest form of affection and caring we can express. We don’t have to say it, we have to do it. That is what God did, as an example for us to live by. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It doesn’t stop there. This just describes God’s love for us, but then He also allows us to choose whether we want His love or not. That’s even more astounding. It’s our choice and while we are deciding whether we receive Him or not, His offer stands. He doesn’t get tired of waiting or change His mind. Yes, He has decreed there will be a time when judgment comes for all of us, but He hasn’t altered that deadline at all, unless it’s to prolong it to give us more opportunity to receive Him.
Do you see where I’m going with all of this? We have been so caught up in our physical lives and downplaying the important terms that were meant to inspire us and motivate us to develop that intimate relationship with God, that we have forgotten the significance of it all. John 3:18-21 sheds light on this, I think. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because thier deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen that they have been done in God.” The evil that Jesus is speaking of is the selfishness we all tend to exhibit. You know, like when we are driving on the highway and we are going about 10 miles over the speed limit in the left lane and we come up on a fellow who is driving the speed limit but is in the left lane, too? Are we patient? Do we even realize that we were breaking the law? Or do we lay on our horn until the fellow moves over so we can whiz past in a fury. Did you ever consider that as evil? I didn’t either until God put it in my heart that this behavior is the way to push people far away from Christianity. We are examples and our behavior in every instance will determine whether we have drawn someone closer to a relationship with Him or pushed them away.
Jesus’ sacrifice and patience is the epitomy of drawing us in. If we allow even a fraction of His compassion into our hearts, we can see and feel His love. God is love. (John 4:8) We are not God’s puppies. He hasn’t given up on us. He provides for us. He guides us. He never leaves us. But beyond that, He allows us to choose and all the while, His love never fails. This is what Easter is and I am thankful know that everyday is a beginning for me to renew my relationship with God. Yesterday might have been good or bad, but today is the day I am making great because He loves me and I am determined to show Him I love Him, too.