When Is Love Not Love?

You ever read those articles, books or blogs that get all weepy about how much has gone wrong in the writer’s life and how God has given them more than they can bear? Or on the flip side the ones that just go on and on (and on and on) about how God’s love or grace is enough and how wonderful everything is no matter how much cancer has destroyed their bodies, how many relatives died horribly, or how many limbs are missing? I have, and they bother me. Sometimes they make me wanna throw up. Other times they disgust me. Occasionally I want to reach through the computer monitor and shake the living crap out of them.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with people who are going through tough things in life. Like is hard. God told us when we drew back from Him in the Garden that thorns, thistles, pain and sweat would mark our days. It’s not that I don’t think God can or will intervene (or should). He can and does. He doesn’t want suffering, He wants us to come to Him and live.

I think I’ve figured out two reasons the weepy stories bother me. For the ones who lose it and claim God has given them more than they can bear it torques me that while telling me that “we are not under law” they break down and blame God. This shows the depth of their faith. Right up to the ankles. So much for freedom in Christ. The other reason, for the ones who act like everything’s peachy because they “have Jesus,” is that they are really saying that sentiment is the answer (not obedience). As long as they feel all warm inside then love must be happening. As long as they can get hugs from each other everything is fine. Both of these types of writings (and lifestyles) have one thing in common: they are self-centered instead of God centered.

I’ve gotten self-centered on occasion. Perhaps that’s why I recognize it in others so easily. But living the Law helps me see it when I am tempted to blame God for what is happening and take steps to correct it. God is righteous; nothing He does is wrong or out of sync with His gracious character. His Laws are gracious and teach us love. We, on the other hand, are quite selfish on a daily basis. We shrug off the Laws as if “shadows” don’t mean anything. We do not ask Him if we should do such and such a thing; we merely do it. Do we modify our diet based on His recommendations? Usually not. So why do we complain if we get sick? Do we ask Him if we should get a shot of so-called “medicine?” No. Then why do we complain about auto-immune diseases such as cancer? Do you ever watch those shows about strange, weird or horrible diseases people get? Did you ever notice that they have two things in common – pork and shellfish? Just coincidence? Let me ask you. DID YOU ASK HIM if you should do something? Did you ask Him if you should drive that car, fly in that plane, or leave the kid alone for just a minute? Did you ignore His Word then wonder what hit you? You don’t ask Him first, and you’ve got the nerve to sit around and whine about the consequences of your “freedom in Christ?”

The Love (or grace) is Enough (and we don’t need the Law) people really get me because they don’t know love. They’re usually just plastering over the pain with some superficial smiles and a couple verses. How do I know? Because it doesn’t last. As soon as circumstances change a little, the smiles turn to snarls. Give ’em a little truth and they turn on you. If you were friends before you won’t be now.

Love rejoices with the truth, it is not offended by it. Love doesn’t need a smile to be love. We can cry and still love God. We can hurt and still do what He says. Love doesn’t need the whitewash of a grace created by man that is thinly veneered permission to sin. Real love exists along with pain, endures in spite of pain, and sustains us through the pain. Love knows that God is ruler of the universe and orders it as He sees fit. Love knows we are in His hands even when it doesn’t feel like it. Love continues to follow Him and His ways of Life though we might cry out for deliverance from our own stupidity. It is not led by feelings of sentiment, but generates them. Love does what God wants first all the time.

Trials hurt. People get sick and people die. There’s no getting around it. The reason it usually hurts so much is that we are selfish and we want a pain-free life and we want the dead to still be around (though it’s better for believers to be with Jesus). I do not mean to say that there should be no trials, nor am I saying that they should be lightly dismissed. But a heart centered on abiding in His Word, doing all of His living oracles (the Law), can weather the worst trials without losing it or glossing over it. That’s one of the many blessings of learning obedience through abiding in the whole of His Word (including the Law). Abiding is love; love is abiding.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9–11, ESV)

Shalom