Thursday, August 18, 2005

Practical Advantages of Belief in God - Parts 10 and 11

The most natural thing in the world is to love the lovely, follow the winner, appreciate the star. As a spouse, parent, or child, it is easy to love when we are getting our way, being well treated, and seeing positive virtues in the loved one. But for every winner there is at least one loser, nobody is good at everything, and everyone has bad days.

However, I don’t know about you, I want my wife, kids, grandkids to love me at my worst, not just at my best. I need their love more on the day I fail than on the day I succeed. It’s real hard to get back on the horse after the fall, if the crowd walks away looking embarassed.

But then, all those folks in my life who I hope will love me without condition turn out to be human, too. They may understand the need to be completely forgiving, filled with grace, and hugely understanding of my failings and “unique” personality, but they are all too likely to “fail” sometimes or even often in this effort.

10. Receiving unconditional love from God. From the earliest age we teach the song Jesus Love Me to our kids. Then it is Jesus Loves the Little Children. God knows that he has built into each one of us a need to be loved. But when that love is based on conditions, it turns into something that drives us to behave in ways that we think will cause others to love us. These “ways” can be very distructive. Maybe I feel that my Mom will only love me if I perform well in school. That would seem like a good thing. Until I fail, that is. Or until I fail to meet what I believe or her expectations. Now I’m living my life for her, not for me.

Lets say that I believe that God’s love is conditional. How better to live my life than to be constantly comparing what I do to what Ithink God wants me to do? Then I fail, and I will. I think that God’s love is withdrawn. How do I recover from that? Strive harder? Work harder? Or give up in despair? God doesn’t intend that. He definitely wants us to work hard and do as he has has instructed us for our own good, not His good. He wants to be there to lift us up when we fail, not abandon us. The knowledge that God will be there, NO MATTER WHAT, even if everyone else has forsaken us, is a phenomenal comfort. If we truly trust in that one thing, it will carry us through much that we might otherwise become self destructive over.

11. Giving unconditional love through God’s example and strength.
Since I am an imperfect being, like you, there are days when I find it easier to love my wife, children, friends than I do on some other days. Some folks say I’m very sensitive and prone to having my feelings hurt. Well, when that happens, its harder to love the person who caused the hurt.

Sometimes if a person hurts you often enough, you not only find it hard to love them, you choose (maybe even wisely) to withdraw from the relationship. However it is possible to continue to love a person through all of this, even after ending the relationship. In fact, Christ call on us to love our enemies.

So Jesus gives us the example, and calls on us to follow Him in this example. So what does it mean to love in this way. Willingness to sacrifice (Christ on the cross), prayer for their well being (Christ’s intervention with God for us), and the offer of complete forgiveness for any slight or hurt.

God knows that such love for others will benefit the person doing the loving even more than the one who is loved in such a way. There is great peace and assurance in living life with this attitude. There is great tension and unease in wondering and worrying about the intentions and attitudes of those who are at odds with you.

This kind of love is a choice. You have to make a willful decision to love this way. It doesn’t come as a result of a feeling. In other words, it is practical. I want my life to be better. Jesus says it will be better if I love others unconditionally, including my enemies. Therefore I choose to do so.

If you want to find defeated human beings, it isn’t that hard. Some of the most defeated at all are the lonely. Visit an old folks home, or even many of the eldery in our society whose spouses are no longer with them. It isn’t really necessary to only check out older folks. There are millions of young people who aren’t connected in any meaningful way, who spend their evenings in front of tv’s or computers wishing they had companionship.

As stated in the opening paragraph, there are plenty of organizations that offer fellowship as part of membership. Social or community clubs, senior citizen centers, political and charitable organizations, and clubs built around hobbies or special interests are just a few of the choices ouit there.

And honestly, churches don’t always get thispart right. Many of today’s churches are putting a new focus on the idea through the small group movement, but there are those who are still not connected.

Part 12 is next here

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