Today is February 14th. But for me, it’s Friday. I don’t mean that in a cynical way, because I try to make the most of every day, holiday or workday. So for me, it’s Friday, but it’s not just Friday; because it’s never just Friday at all. Anyway …
As I was driving to a meeting this morning, I was thinking about earthly love, and how it’s given to us as a gift to show us a picture of what God is like. Earthly love was never intended to be an end in itself, but a sign post to point us toward the greater reality of heavenly love. When we make earthly love the end game—the focus of our existence—we miss out on its purpose entirely, which is to point us to a greater reality. I am not making trying to make light of earthly love, but trying to help us understand that it is a good thing that points us to a great thing.
I loved what Mark Driscoll said on Twitter earlier this week, that when we are at a wedding ceremony and see a groom smiling at his bride, we should remember that that is how God feels about us.
1 John 4:19 tells us that when we love, it’s because we were made in the image of God, who first loved us. I used to think this verse meant that it was impossible to love unless you first received the love of God for yourself, but today I am questioning if that is true. I do believe that there is a selfless love that humans once possessed but was lost along the way, that they cannot access until they are in relationship with their True Father. (And even when we can access that, we don’t live out of that place all the time, especially not in the church parking lot.) But to say that it is impossible to love altogether until you are reunited with God would contradict the fact that every person, Christian or otherwise, was made in the image of God. We love because He first loved us, not because we received His love.
I am thinking out loud here, but journey with me … I think pretty much everyone seeks to be loved. (The people I have met who say they don’t, I often discover have been hurt at some point in the process of seeking to be loved.) Even people who don’t seek God seek to be loved. But what if … what if they really are seeking God, and they just don’t realize it? What if in their search for love, they are really searching for God? If this is true, then the problem is not that people aren’t searching for God; the problem is that they don’t search deeply enough for God. They settle for what is good, and miss out on what is great.
I know a counter argument for this idea (which just came to me in the last five minutes, so please bear with me) could be that people who don’t know God are never really satisfied with the love they find, but I know plenty of people who don’t know God who are quite content in their relationships. It would be far too general of a statement to say that they are struggling through life because they don’t know God. (And let’s be honest, we often still struggle through life just as much with God, we just struggle with hope, if you will.)
If all of this is true, perhaps our methods of evangelism should change from trying to convince people that they are miserable and empty, to trying to convince them to not settle for less than they were created for. What if, instead of “beating them down” into salvation, we inspired them to dream of knowing a Love far greater than the greatest love they will ever experience on this earth?
For the record, I am not saying that we do not need to realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior. That is still foundational to the Gospel, and we cannot take it away. I am just saying that perhaps we can switch our presentations of the Gospel to an invitation to encounter, rather than the ultimate beat down.
Another counter argument would be Romans 3:11, … there is no one who seeks God, which expounds on Psalm 14:2-3. And so, for my Calvinist friends, I would agree that we cannot come to God without Him drawing us to Himself, but what if God is already drawing every human being to Himself? We know that He is doing this at least through His creation (Romans 1:20), and if this is true, than we can say that God is drawing every person to Himself, which would mean that every person is able to seek Him.
So, in conclusion to this blog that got so far off topic from what I originally intended (though in a really cool way), I would like to say that earthly love is good and something to be enjoyed and cherished, just as long as we don’t make what is good the main thing, to the point where it gets in the way of us experiencing what is great.
To everyone who is single, like myself, I would quote the words of Donald Miller (even though that is not popular right now since he doesn’t go to church), from his book Through Painted Deserts: “It’s funny how you think you need something but you really don’t. I mean I remember feeling like if I didn’t have this girl I was going to die. But I am not dead, and I feel fine, and I think half the time when I like some girl I am really looking for some kind of redemption, some kind of feeling that I matter or am valuable or am needed, and I don’t think there is a problem with that, but it just makes you realize how much we use each other sometimes. I heard once that real love doesn’t ask what is in it for me; it just gives unconditionally. It just tries to take the weight out of somebody else’s pack, lessen his load, and if it gets reciprocated, that’s great, but that isn’t what you did it for.”
In order to properly function as humans, we definitely need communal (community) love, but we don’t always need romantic love (though it’s okay to want it). We do, however, always need the love of God, because He is the only one who can make us fully alive. And here is what is so amazing about the love of God: It is available to us at any point in life, regardless of how good (or not good) we are at experiencing earthly love.
And so tonight, if you are enjoying a candlelit dinner with your significant other, as you gaze deeply into their eyes, may you catch a glimpse of what God is like. And if you’re eating Chinese take-out in your living room, will you pause for a moment, gaze deeply into the eyes of the Father, and receive the perfect love that only He can give?