Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts

Monday, February 26, 2024

Anonymous Asks (291)

“How should a Christian respond to being in a loveless marriage?”

People have different personalities and experiences, as well as different levels of character development and maturity, so it should not come as a surprise that we enter married life looking for different things. In general, men are looking for respect from their wives, and women are looking for love from their husbands.

I am getting that from a couple of places.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Love and Conditions

I have a friend in a bad family situation.

Actually, I have a large number of these. Most of you probably do too. No physical abuse, only a little occasional verbal nastiness, but the relationship is not a Christian marriage and the children are not growing up immersed in or even exposed to the training and instruction of the Lord. The biblical authority structure is not there and, at least from the outside, all the love appears to be flowing in one direction only.

My friend proposes to fix the situation by loving the family unconditionally, perhaps because so often we hear that is the way that God loves us.

Does he really? Maybe we need to explore that idea a little.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Anonymous Asks (269)

“Does God love everyone or just Christians?”

Love is not just something God does, it’s who he is, the overarching quality that characterizes him and the “glue” that binds together all his glorious attributes. Scripture is clear that he expresses his loving nature freely in the world, sending rain on the just and unjust alike. This expression of love is often referred to as “providence” or “common grace”, made manifest in indiscriminate kindness, delay of judgment and so on. Such generalized goodwill on God’s part toward mankind despite our fallen condition makes sense: it would be odd for Christ to command his followers to love our enemies if God did not act lovingly toward them too.

And he did. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were loved before we were ever saved.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Whole of the Law

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

For those who have never heard of Aleister Crowley, a short bio culled from information available at Infogalactic.

Crowley was born into a wealthy Plymouth Brethren family in Warwickshire, England in 1875, and rejected Christianity to become an occultist, poet, painter and novelist. A practicing bisexual, he founded the religion of Thelema, promoted a form of Satanism, traveled the world, climbed mountains, experimented with hallucinogens and claimed to be a prophet of the Egyptian god Horus. In his day, he was referred to as “the wickedest man in the world”. In 2002, the BBC ranked him as the 73rd greatest Briton of all time.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Anonymous Asks (252)

“Is it possible to love a person you don’t like?”

Thankfully, yes. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We may wink at certain kinds of misbehavior, especially when we find them clever or funny, but God knows there is nothing to like about sin. Yet he displayed his love toward us when we were thoroughly detestable and utterly unfit for his presence.

But I suppose the real question is whether it is possible for human beings to love unlikable people. That’s a little tougher.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

“Blest be the tie that binds
 Our hearts in Christian love:
 The fellowship of kindred minds
 Is like to that above.”

So sang the congregation.

And they sang it every Sunday.

They sang it whenever it was announced that they had a visitor or new congregant come among them.

A nice gesture, wasn’t it?

Thursday, April 06, 2023

“I Love You,” She Said Determinedly

A man and a woman are going to bed. It’s been a long day — work has been vexing, the children have been demanding, calls and emails have piled up, and best efforts at getting it all done have failed. Irritations have built up; and at times, the couple has actually been a bit snappish.

The husband is middle-aged, and somewhat dumpy and slightly graying. His earlier grumpy mood has subsided only into a plodding weariness as he gets ready to turn in. He’s left his slippers askew in the corner again, and hung his trousers over the chair instead of putting them in the closet.

The wife turns to her husband and says, “I love you.”

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

What Does Love Look Like?

When I go shopping with somebody I love, I pay careful attention to all the purchases they don’t make, especially when they look at an item with great interest, then put it back on the shelf with a sigh because they can’t afford it right now or have other financial priorities. Why? So I can come back later, pick it up and stick it in the closet for the next Christmas, Valentine’s Day or birthday celebration.

Mostly this is a favor to myself: I hate the pressure of having to run out at look for a gift at last minute. But it also means I don’t waste much money on presents people don’t really want or won’t use.

Let me suggest we treat the Law of Moses that way.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

More Where That Comes From

Being transformed into the image of the Son of God does not depend on me.

Thank the Lord for that.

There are things about Christian service that can be learned. Skill sets can be developed. Techniques can be applied. Practice sometimes makes perfect. I could, for instance, wholly apart from the Spirit of God, acquire a greater understanding of Hebrew and Greek through diligent study and as a consequence become a more accurate Bible teacher.

Whether much of eternal value would come from that apart from the Spirit of God is a separate question, but it can certainly be done.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Loving and Respecting

“Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Phil and Katie are a Christian couple in their fourth decade of married life. They have three grown children. Both are close to normal retirement age. As a director of a small company, Katie makes slightly more than Phil does in his role as middle manager for a larger one. She is also brimming with confidence that comes from long-term day-to-day success on the job.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Do You Love the Lord?

Well, do you? It’s a hugely important question. It merits serious thought.

Love for God is fundamental. Jesus taught that the first and greatest commandment in the Law of Moses was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. So then, God claims the right to rule my thoughts, to control how I define and express my self, and to direct my understanding. Allowing him to exercise his rightful domain unimpeded is the first and greatest expression of love toward God.

This truth was fundamental to a right understanding of the Law, and it is fundamental to Christianity. All true goodness follows from it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Higher Than Law

“One who loves another has fulfilled the law.” So wrote the apostle Paul in Romans. Again, in Galatians he reminds his readers that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

His point is that Christians behaving lovingly don’t need to worry about whether they are acting in the will of God or conforming in every detail to God’s law, because they are doing what God wants without even thinking about it. Their conformity to godliness has become as automatic and unconscious as breathing.

But love is only higher than law when it’s actually love.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (18)

When God disciplines his people under either Old or New Covenants, it is not simply an expression of righteous anger. It is not merely a case of giving people what they deserve. Reproof and discipline in this life are acts of love designed to produce repentance, not an early preview of the torments of hell — though that is what certainly awaits the unregenerate if God’s warnings are ignored. But we have a God who declares he is not willing that any should perish, and he behaves consistently with that statement.

I like to think that if more people understood this we might see more repentance.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Kissing the Son

“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”

That’s a very strong statement. Catholics would say, “Let him be anathema”, which simply means “devoted to destruction”. Paul leaves us no fence to straddle: it’s love or destruction. Choose one or the other.

That word translated from Greek to English as “love” refers to affection or approval. It’s also a word that means “to kiss”. In the ancient East, when you saw someone you knew and liked on the street, you would greet them with a kiss. It was a way of publicly identifying yourself with that person; of saying to everyone around, “This is my guy, right here.”

Or you could just turn your head away and walk on by. But what an insult that would be.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Syllogism That Isn’t

“Love … believes all things.”

“Love your enemies.”

Do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you.”

The three verses quoted above create a syllogism that isn’t.

First, we have Paul’s statement that love manifests in “believing all things”, whatever that might mean. Secondly, we have the Lord’s command to love one’s enemies, and it follows that if one is to love them, one must “believe all things” while doing so, because that is what Paul says love does. Finally, we have God’s instructions to Jeremiah, emotionally drained by the disloyalty and dishonesty of his own family members, whom he was surely obligated to love even under the Old Covenant … but in this case, Jeremiah’s love was not to manifest in belief. In fact, he was to exercise discernment and see through the lies of his siblings.

Something is wrong with the logic here, and we know it’s not that God has contradicted himself, since that never happens.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Hatred of King Jesus

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

These “companions” were not bad guys.

The psalmist is probably speaking of other Israelite royalty, so Jesus had something significant in common with them despite their human failings: they were all kings. People like David, Solomon and Hezekiah. They served God, they honored God, and they led his people out to victory.

Not bad guys at all, some of them.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Not-Fake Love

“Let love be genuine.”

Familiar verses describe the positive qualities of Christian love — that it is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, is full of hope, and so on. Other qualities of Christian love are expressed by the New Testament writers as the absence of something bad — not arrogant, not rude, not selfishly insistent, not resentful.

Genuineness is a positive quality, but the word underlying Romans 12:9 is actually one of these Greek negations. We might translate it “not-fake”. Reflecting this, other translations go with “unfeigned”, “without hypocrisy” and “without dissimulation”, the last of which may be a little too archaic to be much use.

It reminds us that loving in truth demands we avoid insincerity.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Right There in Front of My Face

From the Department of Missing the Obvious, let me present John 3:16, which I have been hearing my entire life without really hearing it.

This happens. Unfortunately it happens quite a bit. Bear with me. Perhaps the three things I am going to share with you today about God’s love are perfectly evident to you, and always have been.

Let’s just say they didn’t jump out at me, even though they were always right there in front of my face.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Crossing the Gulf

“... with patience, bearing with one another in love.”

Easily said, isn’t it?

“Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.” So said Abraham to the rich man suffering the torments of hades. That chasm is not crossable. “They which would pass from hence to you cannot.”

Speaking naturally, there is also a great gulf fixed between you and me. Not all of you, of course, but certainly some of you. Cross it we must. Our first step is to recognize it is there.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Anonymous Asks (78)

“Is what I feel love or lust?”

That’s a very binary question. There are a few other possibilities worth exploring.

Some people enter into a relationship looking for neither love nor lust. I know of several women who, in their mid-thirties, settled for a man they neither loved nor lusted after primarily because they wanted children and didn’t want to raise them alone. Mostly, they felt out of time and out of other options.

Not ideal, but those are definitely real feelings. And there are lots more.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Anonymous Asks (70)

“Does God love everyone?”

The answer to this question may initially seem so obvious as to render further commentary a bit pointless. If there is a better-known Bible verse than John 3:16, I cannot think what it might be. Maybe a line from Psalm 23.

In any case, as the Lord told Nicodemus, “God so loved the world.”

There you are. God loves everyone. Full stop.

Or does he? And if he does, in what sense does he love everyone, and what does that mean for the objects of his love?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Anonymous Asks (51)

“How do I deal with people in my life who have hurt me deeply?”

On one level this question is almost too basic. The weakest, newest Christians have heard “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Even raw pagans know we Christians believe that.

Thus if we try to deal with the question as written, the correct answer is a single word: love. That doesn’t make for much of a blog post.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Whole of the Law

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Loving an Abstraction Abstractly

Christianity Today’s editor in chief Mark Galli recounts a personal crisis:

“It may have been as the result of hearing a sermon, or perhaps reading a book. But I distinctly remember thinking that my Christian life was sorely lacking in the love of God.”

Not only that, but as Galli frankly concedes, he wasn’t even really sure he wanted to know and love God more deeply. He certainly did not yearn for intimacy with God as he felt he should.

Ouch.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

“I Love You,” She Said Determinedly

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Anonymous Asks (29)

“Does Jesus love us all equally?”

Equality is the signal obsession of our age. I’m not sure people living hundreds or thousands of years ago would have asked this question or even thought much about it.

So let’s ask another one: does it really matter?

We already know Jesus loves us. You probably learned it in Sunday School: Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so. And one of the most famous verses in scripture tells us that “God so loved the world …” God gave his Son for us, and his Son gave himself on our behalf. That’s love.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sentiment Without Content

I am reliably informed that in the days of my youth, when I was apparently even more attractive, a sweet young thing from church had a serious crush on me.

The day I got married, or so I hear, she mourned in tears — at the loss of ‘what might have been’, I suppose.

I am supposing because I don’t know. To the best of my recollection, over a period of almost two years, the girl had never said more than ten words to me, nor I to her.

Do you find that odd? I sure do.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Big Cover-Up

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The word “covers” is in Greek kalyptō, meaning to “veil or hinder knowledge”. Absent the rest of scripture to balance it, a literal reading could easily be taken to suggest that the loving thing to do when we hear about someone else’s sin is to bury it deep and keep it from coming to light.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

On the Mount (16)

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord,” says the book of Leviticus. Those last four words are not unrelated, as we will shortly see.

In Leviticus, the neighbor in question is indisputably a fellow Israelite, a blood relative: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” With the parable of the Good Samaritan, the definition of “neighbor” would shortly extend itself to moral geography a Jewish legalist might not strictly consider his own stomping grounds, but that’s another story. It isn’t part of the Sermon on the Mount.

We could import it, of course, but Jesus didn’t.

The Good Samaritan is Luke’s tale to tell. Matthew, who is all about the Lord’s Jewish audience, doesn’t touch it.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Testimony and Evidence

It’s not enough to be nice.

No, really, it’s not. If you want to be trusted — if you want to build confidence, and if you want to establish a lasting relationship — you need to first express the truth in words, then you need to embody it. Or the other way round, if you like. But when we want to send a message and have it understood, our testimony and the evidence to back it up must go together. One or the other alone will not cut it.

That first aspect of communication is expressed in scripture this way: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word.”

Right. Verbal expression is critical in building trust.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Above Our Pay Grade

David, doing a Q&A in Psalm 15:

Q: “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”

A: “[He] in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord.”

That’s interesting, don’t you think?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Price of Admission

If you read only the complaints of Social Justice Christendom, you might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the only possible reason a local church can possibly object to the idea of having fellowship with practicing homosexuals is a lack of love.

And, to be fair, one has to admit that at times Christians have reacted to homosexuals in ways that might be considered less than charitable (though the strictest Christians tend to be considerably kinder than even the most moderate practitioners of Islam).

But not every gathering of Christians is the Westboro Baptist Church. And thankfully, few believers conduct themselves like Fred Phelps, though the media has a tendency to perpetuate the stereotype.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love and Response

Several years ago I gave some good advice to a struggling, depressed young adult. Basic things, really: Go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, brush your teeth and get dressed rather than lying around moping until all hours. Eat properly. Exercise. Clean up after yourself. Jordan Peterson stuff, but before everybody knew who Jordan Peterson is.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Sometimes Burning is Better

My mother had all but given up on being married when she met my father. At very least she had determined to walk with the Lord and serve him with a whole heart whether or not she ended up doing it alone. Or so I remember hearing the story told.

My father, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t really looking for a wife when he met my mother. He was busy preaching and teaching and seizing whatever opportunities to serve that the Lord put in his way. My take on it is that he was seeking first the kingdom of God and found to his delight that some other things got “added unto” him along the way, so to speak.

With such ambivalence about actively pursuing marriage on both sides, it’s a wonder I’m here to type this today. They might well have missed each other. And yet ... here we are.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

No Reinterpretation Required

Love is a two-stage project: there is the declaring of it and then the hard work of actually doing it. It is impossible to effectively communicate love without doing both.

The order of operations is not terribly important, but both elements are critical.

Now of course declarations of love on their own may mislead us and require us to do a little contextual reinterpretation. A classic Canadian rock tune from 1970 made the point that we often say “I love you” when we actually mean something else entirely.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Stuff That Matters

The human heart (interior view)
To believe you have been known and understood is simultaneously the most exhilarating and terrifying sensation in the universe.

The terror is the reason most of us avoid it. To be known is to expose the worst about ourselves, so we market a more palatable package of “alternative facts” to the public, withholding information or spinning it as required.

Man, it’s an awful lot of work.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Hatred of King Jesus

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tax Collectors Do the Same

Living involves action after action, choice upon choice, day after day.

Those of us who are children of God find ourselves regularly involved in what appear on the surface to be exactly the same kinds of daily interpersonal transactions as everyone else. “Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” the Lord asked his would-be followers. “Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Yeah, they do. Thus, when a Christian loves his enemies and prays for his persecutors, he stands out from the crowd. When he simply and normally loves his family and greets his friends, he doesn’t.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

When She Leaves

This morning’s office gossip is that my co-worker’s wife has left him. Didn’t improve my day any. But last week I replied to an email from a Christian friend in the same boat. A month before that, I corresponded with another believer married to a woman who had left her husband.

Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, among others, insists the divorce rate among regular church-goers is actually way lower than previously thought (closer to twenty percent than fifty). If so, that’s a good thing. But if we’re going to pay attention to statistics at all, it’s hard to miss this one: 80 percent of divorces are filed by women.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I’m sensing a trend.

Friday, July 08, 2016

“I Love You,” She Said Determinedly

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Look At Those Goalposts Move!

In addition to constantly meeting facts with feelings, you may have noticed that the religious left tries to avoid addressing opposing arguments directly — a canny strategy when one has little of substance to put forward.

Instead, by moving the goalposts, they reframe the question under discussion so that the other side finds itself inadvertently giving up intellectual or spiritual ground without ever having really lost it. The issue, or at least part of it, is conceded without any discussion at all.

The trick is to recognize goalpost shifting when you see it and refuse to reframe.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poetry and Practice

The apostle Paul is not primarily known as a poet.

Still, even translated into English, 1 Corinthians 13 is poetic enough to have been set to music or read at millions of weddings all over the world, religious and secular.

So much so that Mark Woods at Christian Today wishes we’d use something else instead. He says, “Paul’s sublime, God-breathed words in 1 Corinthians have been co-opted and corrupted by a wedding industry that celebrates romantic love, which is all about hormones, at the expense of Christian love, which is all about commitment”.

Not wrong.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

More Where That Comes From

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Heartless

More women are abandoning their children (and their families generally) than ever before. CNN reports it. The Huffington Post, in a piece too appalling to link to, actually defends it. Indiana has decided to enable it, becoming the first state to install “baby boxes” at hospitals, police stations and fire stations as an easy and anonymous way for parents to give up their infants.

Some would say men have always been quick to stampede for the exits when things get tough, but an epidemic of wives and mothers doing likewise is a comparatively new phenomenon. It may be the straw that breaks Western society’s back.

What we might call natural affection is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The world around us is increasingly heartless.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sophomores, Sophists and Solipsism

Solipsism is the theory that self is all that exists.

It’s kind of an oddball worldview first enunciated by the Greek sophist Gorgias of Leontini around 400 B.C. Gorgias argued that (i) nothing exists; (ii) even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and (iii) even if something could be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.

Now of course when we refer to someone as “solipsistic” today, we do not generally mean that they are a philosopher of the Gorgian school or that they really believe that everything they experience (including the external world and other people) occurs only in their heads and lacks independent existence. Most solipsists are not philosophers at all; in fact, they may never have even heard the word “solipsism”. They have no specific theories of existence and may never have contemplated reality in the abstract.

They just live and think as if self is all that exists.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Quote of the Day (6)

“The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love,” said the psalmist.

It may be argued that in a fallen creation the “steadfast love” of God that fills the earth is easier to recognize at some moments than at others. But contrast that with a materialistic universe, where genuine love is absent by definition.

Someone got Catholic novelist John C. Wright going on the subject of the atheistic vs. the theistic worldview and their respective implications, in particular for the possibility of love as opposed to mere sentimentalism.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Price of Admission

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can A Loving God Send People to Hell?

Hell is a terrible place. It is described as an everlasting fire which was created for the punishment of the devil and his angels. Christ told the story of how one man in hell was in such torment that he begged for just one drop of water to cool his tongue. Some want to know how, if God is love, he could send people to eternal judgement ‘just because’ they did not put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The problem is that we do not realize the seriousness of sin.