Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hate Is Not the Opposite of Love

One of the key ways of killing fear of man in us (besides getting to Know God more intimately) is to need people less and love people more. (If you've never thought about what fear of man is or how to deal with it, check out When People Are Big and God Is Small to get a giant does of pushback against self-esteem and codependency. To 'need people less and love people more' is one of Ed Welch's key application points in that book.) I love Welch (and all the other CCEF guys) because they get at the heart. Where they sometimes fall a bit short in their book-type resources is in the practical help--what does that look like. What does it mean to really love people more?

I was reading in a book tonight in thinking about some intense marriage counseling situations I'm involved with, and came across something profound that starts moving in the practical direction of how to love others (specifically for men--how to love our wives). 

I have often thought that love is the opposite of hate.  What Lou Priolo says in his book, The Complete Husband, is very probing: "To the extent that love is a noun, 'hate' is a good antithetical construct for it. But to the extent that love is a verb, it's probably more accurate to identify its antonym as selfishness. ... taking is the opposite of giving. Giving ... is at the heart of love. Love is giving. Selfishness is taking. 'Am I a giver or a taker?' That is the question you must ask yourself..."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Should I Love My Wife?

There's a blog post going viral on the internet about what real love is. Real love is about “putting someone
else’s needs above your own.” It sounds amazingly good. Christians, Muslims, and Jewish people are going bananas over it.

However, there is a massive flaw in the article: It’s completely void of the gospel and why we are to love in this way. Love truly is “putting someone else’s needs above your own,” but it is doing that for the glory of God and because of the gospel. If we get the motive wrong, we’ll set the whole train in motion in the wrong direction.

A friend of mine recently wisely observed that the man in the article was showing this serving-kind-of-love (an apparently altruistic ethic) to his wife in order to get the emotional feeling he used to get when they first were dating. Her husband then astutely asked, “What is this man going to do when the feelings subside after a while of serving his wife?”

If we look at Ephesians 2:11-18, we see that Christ made reconciliation between God-and-man and man-and-man possible through the blood of His cross. Apart from this good news, we are still “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Our feelings/emotions are only the indicators of what is going on in our hearts. We need to love God and others for the glory of God and so that others may see that glory. As John Piper has always noted, our resulting happiness will be greatest when we are doing that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hope for Us Hypocrites

    I’m a hypocrite—a perfect example of why people don’t want to have anything to do with the church. Of course many people who know me on the outside don’t know that. Only those who know me best know I’m a great actor.
    From the time I was very young, I spent every day of the week (literally) at the church. There I learned much about who God is, who I am, and what life is all about. When I was 5 years old, I made a decision where I talked to God in prayer and asked Him to take me to heaven when I died. That decision became my ticket to heaven. Not much changed from that point on. I lived life like every other kid, enjoying all the things kids do but in a sheltered church culture.
    I tried to live that good-on-the-surface life. Why? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s mostly because I liked to please people. I wanted them to like me and living in my little bubble world surrounded by church people, I had to say the things they wanted to hear, do the things they wanted me to do, and not do what they said I should not do. And for the most part, I did that and was convinced that I was headed in the right direction. Yet, much of what that church taught me and I said I believed, I did not embrace with a full understanding.
    Junior high and high school came and went and I was thought of as a pretty good kid. Throughout those years, I had learned about the world outside of the church through seasonal farm work and the Boy Scouts. There I learned that some of it was very different! During my senior year, I joined the National Guard and was exposed to more of a different world. Some of it bothered me—in a prideful way—I was too good to be like them. But some of it was enticing. For instance, in Louisiana the drinking age was only 18! And of course, when I got back to Illinois I continued to act like I was still in Louisiana—except only with certain friends.
    Through my college years, I played an interesting game: live that church life but with my own definition. That is—try the things I was told are wrong and rationalize from the Bible how everyone had misinterpreted those particulars. And oh, I messed up. I messed up big time. How so? Well, I couldn’t even stick to my own definition of what was right and what was wrong! Somewhere along the way in college, a friend of mine named Kirby pointed me to a Book I had read many times but hadn’t really understood. Oh, I could talk about the Bible and quote much of it from memory. And of course, I had that ticket. But Kirby helped me see anew who God is, who I am, and what life is really all about. So I started reading the Bible again.
    One of the first lessons I learned was that even with all of the evil in this world around me, there was just as much of it right inside of me. I read in the Bible that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This wasn’t news to me in one sense: after all, I had been taught all along that all people are “sinners”—people who disobey God—and deserve to be punished in a place called Hell forever; but somehow, along the way, I had begun to think that, “Yes, I’m a sinner, but I’m a better sinner than those sinners.”
    That’s when I began to understand my hypocrisy. That verse said that my inner being is more wicked than I ever imagined possible. I had defined my own laws about what was right and wrong according to the Bible, and I couldn’t even obey those! And then there was that one story in the Bible where a man asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was—in the hope that if he could keep that one, he’d be in right standing before God. Jesus’ reply was that you have to love God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and your entire mind. That kicked me in the pants pretty hard! I realized that I don’t love God entirely because if I truly did, I wouldn’t be living two different lives. I would be living a life sold out completely to him.
    Then I began to look at one of those verses that I had memorized long ago and saw that there were many things in it I had never understood before. It was true that God had made me. It was true that I had sinned against that God who made me. That verse also affirmed that Jesus died for my sins, for the wicked things I had done. More than that, it said that He did it in order that He could bring me to God. Jesus’ whole purpose in dying on a cross 2000 years ago was so that HE could bring me to God. I was coming a lot closer to understanding that this life and beyond it was meant to be lived with God and that He had done what was necessary for me to be with Him—not something I myself had done. Since I couldn’t even keep my own rules (let alone His!), I saw there was no way I’d be able to prove myself as not-guilty before a Perfect Judge. Yet, I wondered, “So what should I do about the hypocrisy in my life in light of this?”
    Then I found what my response should be and what God’s response to that would be and it blew me away: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.” I realized that my response to what God did for me in giving His only Son—Jesus—to die in my place was that I should turn away from my way of trying to make myself right with God and turn to Him alone. The Bible calls this repentance. This is what I was to do in response to believing what had already been done for me: turn away from my ways and turn to His ways. He had compassion on me and continues to abundantly forgive me of my sin!
    I (and others) still continue to find elements of hypocrisy in my life today, but now I know that is why I need Jesus. I know that in response to His love, I must turn away from those areas of my life that displease God and turn to Him and thank Him for the fact that He still abundantly pardons. Do you know personally that He is willing to do the same for you? Have you looked at what the Bible says about who He is, who you are, and what He has done to bring you to Him? If you have not, please, please do, because one of those many things that I was taught as a child that I know is true according to the Bible is that sin must be punished and will be punished forever in hell if you do not repent and trust in Jesus as your only hope.