Wednesday, July 25, 2012
I recently had opportunity to discuss the subject of unconditional love one on one with friends and I would like to share some thoughts about this topic, if you don’t mind listening.
It seems, at the least, we struggle with thinking that somehow God’s Love is not dependent on our love. It must be, we say, because… well, I guess because we just can’t get over the fact that we can do nothing to earn God’s love and salvation and we want to. We somehow have a need to be loveable because we love. But the truth is that we cannot love without Him because He is Love and we love (only) because He first loved us. Not only is this a declaration of His unconditional love but it is a statement that He loved us before we ever knew that He was willing to love us or even that He showed His Love for us in Jesus Christ. He did not ask us for anything before He loved us: For God so LOVED the world that he gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life (in everlasting Love.)
But beyond the struggle to relinquish our stubborn need to find favor with God because we are such good, loving people, is the struggle we have with His admonition to love one another as He has loved us: unconditionally. Somehow we find this nearly impossible to do. And, actually, it is hard to do on our own. But God. God will love us into this if we let Him.
Someone I love dearly called me early in my recovery from living a life of hate and anger to tell me a lesson she had just been given from God: “God made a point today to remind me that I am to love others… and that my submission to tolerating them was not enough.” To help clarify the importance of this call, let me say that she is a pastor’s wife who was tolerating a lot of very annoying people. :) That call was a great help to me as I worked through my recovery from living a life of hate and anger, taking offense wherever I could find it.
Very slowly it became clear to me that I had no right to not love someone just because they irritated me or because they were not me or anything like me, or even because they had actually done something hurtful to me or to someone I love. And, then, there are those who actually break God’s laws and bring havoc into the picture. Yes, we are to love them unconditionally, too. Even our attempts to bring them back into the fold must be done in love and without conditions, even though there will be some sort of consequence from what was done. We simply have no right not to love. And that means we have no right to hate, disdain, or otherwise snub and be hurtful to others.
So where am I coming from?
One friend is having a hard time unconditionally loving another because the other is not taking the advice given for living a healthier life. The two were very close, but one has come to the end of his rope and finds there just isn’t enough rope to keep hanging on. Yes, we need to love even those who refuse our good advice and continue on a path of self destruction. I guess this conclusion only makes sense if we go back to the fact that it is not our plan for their lives that matter, but God’s plan for their lives, and what He can do and will do to use them for His Glory even as they make (what are in our opinion) bad choices. He loves them more than we do and we must let Him have His way with them.
Another friend has a problem with feeling snubbed. Have you ever felt that way? I sure have and so have many of my loved ones. Some use it to excuse drifting away from God. Others use it to excuse the behavior of not loving that person. One person I love has even remembered a slight that did not happen as a reason to growl every time the name comes up. One of the places this comes up a lot is in relation to social acknowledgements at church or seeming betrayals of our children by other children or adults: You know, the “not gushing enough over their accomplishments”, etc.
One of the major problems with taking offense at possible snobbery is that we are setting ourselves up on pedestals as VIPs when we are in fact just plain folk. NOBODY but God has the ability or the time to put every other person In first place in their lives. EVERYBODY is focused somewhere else some of the time. And, truth be known, sometimes we don’t get noticed like we want to because we have not made ourselves noticeable by giving love to the person who seems to be snubbing us. As in, how much time do we give reaching out to and caring about them? How often have we ever sought them out for simple conversation and meaningful inquiry? Consider the fact that most of us ask, “How are you doing?” while hoping we won’t get an answer. And then consider how often do we go to them with whining on our minds? There’s a big one. A friend in need is a friend indeed, but friendship can be worn thin if all we do is seek comfort for our latest miserable experience every time we approach certain people.
Let me close with this thought: If you have a problem with a brother/sister take it to them and find a time to discuss what is on your mind without “accusationnal” posture. Sound familiar?
Again early in my recovery I found that someone important to that recovery was totally ignoring me, to the point that even when sitting across the table at dinner one night, this person would look at and talk to every one around us but not to me. This was difficult to say the least. So… I gathered my courage and made an appointment to talk with this person. Sure enough this person was not aware of what was happening and prayerfully promised to conscientiously make a point of paying more attention to new comers and not just old friends. This person still has flaws. :) But we are still loving, caring friends and I am still being buoyed up through this person’s life.
May we all keep the air cleared of the trash we like to pick up and toss about in the air like funnel clouds do. May we truly love one another and everyone else the way that God does: unconditionally. And may God bless us, and them in turn.
Monday, July 9, 2012
There is a lot of talk these days about distracted driving. And there is a lot of reason to be concerned about it: Texting is only one of many ways to be distracted, but probably the most necessary clamp down because of the “eyes off the road” time it takes. I rode about 1000 miles once with a texting driver and it was seriously frightening. But the car’s owner and the teen driver were perfectly content with the situation and I am sure the driver is still texting unless the worst has already happened.
As for me, I can be distracted enough by my rear view mirror, my heat console (with all those stupid circular switches) or my radio with all its buttons. I don’t need cell phone action on top of that. Oh, yes, if I am taking you home from somewhere keep your eye on me or I will take you home to my house because I will be distracted by our conversation and will take the “auto” root straight home.
In the study book I am reading about Solomon, which is based on the sermons of Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll says this:
Solomon had a heavy foot on the accelerator. Intoxicated with fame, fortune, and females, his spiritual eyelids were heavy with lethargy. It would take more than black coffee to sober him up to his responsibilities as ruler of God’s people. With only one arm propped on the steering wheel of the kingdom, Solomon was fast on his way to becoming a spiritual fatality.
Solomon appeared to have it all. In today’s terms, that might be described as several palatial homes complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, movie theaters and any other home amenity that strikes interest; a fleet of fancy cars, yachts, jets, and maybe even space ships these days. And let’s not forget all the latest electronic equipment available today, and all the hot babes that these things attract. He truly appeared to have it all and wisdom too.
But the derailing of the train was already in motion as it sped down the track. Solomon was bored and disillusioned. Swindoll says, “Fortune, fame, friends, and fulfilled fantasies became his daily delights. But like a steady diet of luscious desserts, these pleasures soon sated his appetite and made him nauseous.”
Solomon put it this way in his “diary,” the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 2:
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility (vanity, meaningless.) …I explored (pleasure)… (for myself); I enlarged my works, I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards - gardens - parks and all kinds of fruit trees for myself. I made ponds of water for myself... to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought slaves, male and female and had home born slaves. I collected for myself silver and gold. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem…. (and on and on.) And behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was not profit under the sun.
It was a “subtle trap.” There were signs of erosion, an opening which had allowed the winds and water to enter and erode the very basis of his commitment to God and the ways of his father. The first was the all too quick decision to marry and become unequally yoked together with the Pharaoh’s daughter and thereby the Pharaoh of Egypt. The last straw seemed to be the turning of his heart from God to seek pleasure in worshiping the idols of his 700 wives and 300 concubines. The train wrecked, the car crashed and the people of Israel were never the same again. The kingdom was divided and conquered. It’s a tragic story. And one we should never forget.
We cannot divide our allegiance with God for any reason. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 (KJV) With our hope and our lives depending entirely on our salvation through Jesus Christ we know that we cannot be permanently divided from Him, but we certainly can be turned away from His daily blessings by seeking the thrill of this world over the thrills of our Lord.
May we decide today to keep that from happening by listening, learning and living in the Word which is Him. May we seek our happiness and pleasure in Him knowing that He has the greatest hope and plan for us and will see that it is done. May we rejoice right now that He is ours and we are His.
And while I am thinking about it, perhaps I might suggest that we need to run our driving tests a little differently and subject the drivers to “distracted” driving in a controlled environment so that we can become more aware of how dangerous we really are behind the wheel of a car or the controls of an airplane or train… or at the controls of our own lives. Just sayin’. :)