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“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Could it be any clearer? God is love. This verse, from 1 John 4:8, just about says it all. We should love people. God does. Anyone who claims to love God, but hates people has an incomplete, or warped, view of God. He loves all people, everywhere, no matter the extent of their sin. And so must we, if we claim to be one of His followers. God is love. End of discussion. Not so fast.
If we’re going to accept that God is love, we must also accept the other parts of the Bible that speak about His other traits. For instance, while 1 John proclaims the nature of God being love one time, Isaiah announces His holiness – not once or twice, but three times:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
– Isaiah 6:3 (ESV)
The same Bible that says “God is love” also says that God is holy. If we pick and choose which verses of the Bible we like about God, and discard those we don’t, we end up with an idol – a self-fashioned, reconstructed “god” who isn’t really God after all. He is so entirely holy that no other trait describing Him is referenced in this way, three times in succession.
WRESTLING WITH GOD
The epic story of God is launched in Genesis with these monumental words that create the backdrop for all of life:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:27, 31 (ESV)
We were created in the image of God. We still are. Our current wrangling over sex and sexuality is really a wrangling over the nature and identity of God. Sexual confusion is a symptom of the real problem: confusion about God. Confusion about God leads to confusion about us.
We are now full-steam ahead in our efforts to recreate God in our own image. If the Bible teaches us anything, it teaches that all such attempts are futile. In other words, this path, if not reversed, does not end well.
LOVING PEOPLE, LOVING GOD
God does not fluctuate between degrees of love and holiness. He is, at all times, simultaneously love and holy. To love God is to love all of Him or nothing at all. To love people is to help them see that they are created in His image, and that image is not merely “good.” It is said in Genesis 1:31 to be “very good.” The idea is that we were created complete. We cannot succeed in adding to or subtracting from the image of God. Neither can we succeed when we add to or subtract from what He has created.
The most loving thing you can do in response to God’s love and holiness is embrace Him – all of Him – and help others do the same. Be careful you don’t recreate God into an inept, second-rate idol. Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:9:
“. . . you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Not all “gods” are alive and true. Have you turned from false, powerless gods to the living and true God? If you have, then don’t turn back. If you haven’t, then it’s time you discover Him. Read the Bible, and set aside your editorial temptations. Don’t pick and choose which parts you like and don’t, because if you do, you’ll be recasting God in your image – and then you’ll have problems with your own identity. Love God by embracing all of Him.
LOVE SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING
If you know someone who is struggling with their gender affiliation, help them understand that God didn’t make a mistake when He made us male and female. He didn’t make a mistake in making them male or female. What God made and makes was, and is, very good.
When we allow someone to remain in a fog about God, we aren’t loving them at all. If anyone tries to tell you that you’re a narrow-minded “hater” because you believe what the Bible teaches about sex and sexuality, don’t be intimidated. Name-calling is one of the most elementary signs of immaturity and fear. Remember, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you. The most loving thing you can do for someone is to help them discover the truth about God. The way to do this is to help them read the Bible as is, without adding or subtracting to what it teaches about God.
Remember: What we believe about ourselves is a reflection of what we truly believe about God. When we embrace the truth about God, and help others do the same, we model the most perfect love possible toward God and people. Once we do, all of life begins to make sense. Freedom begins with embracing the truth about God.
Are you afraid of knowing God or helping others know Him? Why? Learning the truth about God will help you learn about yourself. That’s what will really set you free.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The slide happens to us all if we’re not careful. We begin to believe that our identity is wrapped up in what other people think of us. We begin living to please people and chase whatever expectations we think they have. It’s a slippery slope, and you must avoid it at all costs. If you don’t, you’ll waste precious time – life itself – trying to please people whose opinions, eternally speaking, really don’t matter. Since none of us gets a second chance at life, avoiding the people-pleasing trap is incredibly important. How can we avoid the slippery slope of beginning to live life around the expectations of others? Here are a few fast thoughts that I think will help you. They help me, and I need to remind myself of them continually:
Are you tired of seeking the approval of people? Maybe it’s time to rest in God’s approval. Believe me, the alternative is nowhere near as freeing.
I’d love to hear what you think about this . . .
“Watch out, Michael, life goes too damn fast. Before you know it, it’s over!” These are the words of my father days before his last breath. The cancer had quickly gotten the best of him, but not his ability to speak his mind with blunt force trauma. He had an epiphany about life that seemed to come too late. In learning late, Dad taught me early.
Be careful: the speed of life accelerates as we age. Not in real time, but in time as we experience it. The more I try to slow life down, the less I am able to keep up. Time evaporates so quickly. Why do we live as if we have an unlimited amount of the one resource that is most limited? Time is the one thing of which we cannot buy more – and yet we treat it as if we can. Why do we allow ourselves to be so self-deceived? And by the time we realize what we’ve allowed, it’s a bit too late. The best time of our lives has already slipped by.
Time is the one thing of which we cannot buy more – and yet we treat it as if we can. Why do we allow ourselves to be so self-deceived?
My children are growing in age and height. More wrinkles appear on my face, and my body cannot do the things it used to do with ease. This is everyone’s lot. Eventually, life catches up to us – and then it does an underhanded thing – it passes us in the speed lane.
When I was younger I remember how summer vacation seemed an eternity. No responsibilities. No limit to how often I could play on our small farm, run in the fields, skip stones in our pond, or overturn large rocks in our stream in search of crawdads. But now those days are gone – and the mix of life’s temporal and eternal aspects stands before me like a winter’s day, cold yet beautiful.
It is, at times, easy to lose heart. I will one day have to say goodbye to my handsome sons and beautiful wife. I will most likely have to do this when I am not thoroughly prepared, no matter how well I may try to brace myself. Though none of us is ever truly ready to go, our going will come at God’s appointed time. The temporal will yield to the eternal. Cold will give way to beauty. Forever.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)
Time cannot steal what God gives to us so richly.
The Psalmist prayed it well:
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 (ESV)
The funny thing about wisdom is that the more we get it the more we realize how little we have. Life is short. Live like it.
“Lord, give me wisdom to number my days so that I may get the kind of heart that comes from You. Without wisdom, I will drift away from what really matters most.” More than ever, this is my prayer. Is it yours?
Does life seem short to you? Are you living it with God’s wisdom? Why not ask Him for a heart of wisdom as you begin each and every day, and repeat that heart-cry each and every hour?
I’d love to know what you think.