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)


Father of Mercies, God of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)


It’s tough to find comfort in the middle of sadness, and it is usually tough to offer comfort too. My mother-in-law passed away recently after a few years of not knowing who her family was and not hardly being able to feed and dress herself. Comfort was a little easier in her case because she had lived a pretty full life. My dad died from a brain disease at 62, a nephew died by his own hand recently at 30, and a friend died from cancer a few years ago in middle age after adopting five children. A six year-old girl I know is fighting leukemia. I have trouble finding comfort in understanding sometimes, but I do find comfort in the Father of mercies and God of comfort.


Believers have comfort because we know this life is not all there is. Our hope is that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. This life is hard and death abounds because of sin, but it’s not going to stay that way forever. God is righteous, just, merciful and loving and has offered us a way out of the eternal consequences of sin.


It is a comfort to realize in a way that we MUST die once in order to enter eternal life. Sometimes it happens sooner than we want, but it must happen. None of us is getting out of this alive. We have a resurrection hope, that even if we lose life in this age we will regain it in the next. It is a comfort that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.


Pagans are a different story in the comfort department. It’s a super tragedy when someone dies without God. There is no hope there, except perhaps that we might be wrong, they really did have God, and maybe God will look with favor on them somehow. The other hope is that people will be moved to make their own position with God secure by accepting His mercy in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus the anointed.


Before we get uptight about bad things happening to good people, we really should make sure of our definitions of bad and good. We can take comfort in the fact that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it really is. And we might think we are good, but is that really true? Are we really doing everything we can to pursue His kingdom? Yet even if we are good, we live in a sinful, wicked world and sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. In all of it believers find comfort that God is a God of reason and all things work together for good for those of us who love Him.


The bottom line is the mercy of God. We need to recognize that He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything. Pagans don’t acknowledge this (even though they owe Him everything too) so they have no comfort. Believers do, so we throw ourselves on His mercy and ask humbly for things to be different. If not, then we continue in comfort knowing that we are in the household of the Father of mercies. We suffer as sons and daughters of the most High God, brothers and sisters to the Messiah who makes adoption possible, and have the mercy of eternal life. In 10,000 years or so, we will look back on this life as a wisp of a memory, and only our walk with Him will remain.

Teacher Born in Sin

Some of the most complex or hard to understand ideas are understood and accepted by the most uneducated of people. The man born blind in John 9 is a case in point. He was healed of his blindness by Jesus, and knew exactly why.

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:30–34, ESV)

The educated (and to their own minds sinless) religious leaders of the time couldn’t seem to figure it out. More likely they knew but refused to accept. Not so different from so many today who are blind though their eyes work perfectly fine.

Education has a place, but when it feeds an overweening pride it blinds. Here the blind people cast a man who could see out of the congregation (synagogue). We see the same effect today – blind people are casting those of us who can see whole Bible principles out of congregations. So the congregations are made up mostly of blind people. Proof that the religious leaders were not following God’s Word was in the fact they didn’t know from whence Jesus came and refused to follow His teachings.

The blind are convinced they have no sin, and attack any who imply different. The couldn’t biblically dismantle the formerly blind guy’s teaching, so they attacked his character and hit him with the worst they could dish out. Except it didn’t do anything, because he went right back to Jesus and worshiped Him (verse 38).

If your eyes work as they should, worship of Jesus including doing what He did is the natural result. He did what the Father told Him to do, and people who can see are right in line with that. Getting kicked out of the congregation is no indicator of sin or sinlessness. In fact, it might be an indication that your eyesight is very clear.

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. (Malachi 4:1–4, ESV)