LOVE: A REBRANDING

Love. It is the one common thing every person on earth searches for during their lives. Everyone wants to be loved, to feel love, and to make love. Yet not many in our society really wanted to go through the effort to give love, or to show love, so we have slowly decided to redefine love.

We redefined “love” as not only a temporary feeling of butterflies in stomachs and giggles, but as tolerance. And then we redefined tolerance as accepting everyone’s views as equally right, rather than its old definition of respecting people’s differences. If you love someone these days, you won’t tell them when they’re wrong. Because correction might hurt feelings, and hurting someone’s feelings isn’t love, it’s narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Through our redefining of love, we’ve come to the conclusion we all should get participation trophies, because it’s easier to buy a trophy than it is to say no.

Before I started writing this, I was listening to Bob Marley to get into the mood. I figured if I’m going to write about love, I should listen to the guy who helped define it. And that’s when I started to realize that Bob Marley had no idea what he was talking about. Or at least we have no idea what Bob Marley was talking about (it turns out he was a lot more militaristic than modern society makes him out to be). Take “One Love,” for example:

“Let’s get together and feel alright.”

Bob Marley - a man who tried to redefine love

Bob Marley – a man who tried to redefine love

We’ve redefined this love as “getting together,” and as a state of “feeling alright.” We’ve redefined love as irresponsibility. This is not love. This is the result of a society which can’t be told they’re wrong. This is the result of passivity, because our society today is too afraid of what comes along with real, truthful love. The truth is, only one man has ever lived a life of complete love, and his life was synonymous with discontent and discomfort. He said many wise things about love, and he called a lot of people out on the wrongs they were doing. And he said love is the most important thing we can do. He also said,

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” –John 15:13

Many people read this verse and see it as a challenge – as a question asking, “Would you die for your friends?” They think it over and say, “Yeah, I think I would,” and walk off proud because they’ve stepped up to the task. But this is only one small piece of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus isn’t talking about finite death; he is talking about daily, hourly death. He is giving love it’s true definition: sacrifice. This is why Christianity preaches abstinence, and living only out of need, and giving to those without. It is even why Christianity preaches against abortion – because we believe a living fetus is to be loved as equally as the woman who created it, even though we know believing this means the woman will have to make huge sacrifices.

Are you willing to sacrifice your own happiness for your friends?

If not, I can’t say you love them. Jesus was the one who defined love because He is the only one who truly lived it out through sacrifice. He came to this earth with the power to defeat any wrong done against him – with the power to do it the easy way by conquering the unjust and becoming the ruler of the nations – the way most Jews expected – yet He didn’t do that. He didn’t destroy the wicked, He paid their way. He disciplined himself to perfection, and because that is something we can’t accomplish, He sacrificed himself in order to see us as perfect. He took the hard way out, because it was the only way to create a way out for us. He sacrificed because He knew it was the only way to love. It was the only way to rescue everyone – the good and bad alike. He sacrificed himself because He loved all.

Our society can’t seem to grasp this. Our society is too busy hiding behind the lie that sex is love, or acceptance is love. Our society is too busy letting people define love as something that feels good, while watching our marriages crumble and our lives turn meaningless because we’re too afraid to do things that are hard. We’re too selfish to do things we don’t want to do. We’re too proud to think someone else is more important than ourselves. And until we begin to see ourselves as the “least of these,” as Jesus taught and lived, we will never sacrifice our own momentary happiness for the happiness of the people we love.

The truth is, I as a Christian, and us, as Christians, have a long way to go. We have become so focused on relevance in our culture that we have neglected relevance to God. We have become so focused on living comfortably and selfishly that we have forgotten how to live any other way. We have preached so much grace and forgiveness for the world that we have started to believe we are of the world, and forgotten that as soon as we accept God’s grace we are called to allow the Holy Spirit to restore us to righteousness through complete surrender.

Yet despite our failings, I am encouraged. I am encouraged by our generation’s attitude of all in or not in at all. I am encouraged by our generation’s hatred of lukewarm. I am encouraged by our generation’s desire to serve the world and sacrifice for the sake of the world, and our progress towards redefinition. The world may be getting sicker, but the church is slowly getting healthier. The church is realizing following Jesus and His teachings are more important than following what people say about Him. The church is realizing living a life of love – of complete sacrifice and surrender – is the only way to healing. It’s time we share our realizations. It’s time we show the world our new (old) definition of love.

LOVE = SACRIFICE.

1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”

We sacrifice because He first sacrificed for us.

WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE (WELL, YOU MIGHT BE) – CHRISTIAN COP-OUTS AND DRIVING AHEAD TOWARDS GOD’S CALL

God has it under control. Don’t worry, because His will is unstoppable.

How many times have you heard this? I know, as a Christian afraid of a lot of things that largely have to do with what God is calling me towards, I have said this a lot – and with the best of intentions, but the worst of reasons.

The Christian subculture is a funny thing to me. We talk about how much we trust God all the time, and when He tells us to actually trust Him with something big, we find ourselves saying, “I’m good” and acting content. We’re a culture who really loves saying certain Put-Off-Something-ExtraordinaryFINALthings – certain “Christian-isms,”without having the slightest idea what any of them mean., and most of these are said as excuses with good intentions,as if we believe if we say something that sounds Christian enough, God will overlook our failure to do what He has called us to. We’ve never even taken the time to notice God above us shaking His head, wondering when we’re going to finally get it – when we’re going to realize we’re just tricking ourselves.

My favorite Christian cop-out, and most used in my own life, is the Christian saying that goes something like, “Either way, God is in control.” Our intentions, through saying this, is to tell our Christian friends all about God’s power and uncontrollable plans for our world, while our reasons for saying it  are often completely different.

Our reasons are saying something like, “Boy I’m glad God’s will is done regardless, because I’m way too (insert cowardly adjective here) to try and do that, and I’m not sure God is big enough to come through on that!”

And by living out of our cowardice and faithlessness rather than our intentions, our lives are stalling at far less than the potential God sees in us. We’re ending our road trip to the Rocky Mountains by cornfield camping in Kansas, deciding the field next to us is good enough because we’re too afraid we’re not in good enough shape to walk up hills – let alone mountains that start a mile above sea level.

So why are we so seemingly content with our inaction and worldly potential when God has given us a preview of what we’re capable of with Him? The truth is, we’re not. We’re just tricking ourselves because our main motivator is fear. We’ve tricked ourselves into believing we aren’t necessary or capable of doing what we’ve felt called to do because we’re too afraid we don’t have the right hiking shoes, and surely God would only ask someone with sufficient hiking shoes. We’re too afraid because we can see how long we’ll be hiking uphill as soon as we begin the climb, so we decide we’d rather just keep hiking along in Kansas. But the problem with Kansas is there’s never a view from the top. Sure, you’re living safely and without sore legs (or pride) or empty lungs (or fallbacks), but you’re also living life without ever knowing what it feels like to reach the top and look out over hundreds of miles of Kansas, taking a million pictures of where God has taken you (If you’re from Kansas, by the way, I’m not mocking your state. I’m just recognizing the comfortable walking conditions which exist there).

You’re probably saying about now, “Oh chase your dreams. Never heard that before. The only problem is, they never tell me how.” Well, no need to worry. Because I’m going to tell you.

Step 1: Recognize something you feel called to do, and pray about it. A lot. But don’t use prayer as an excuse for inaction. If God’s asked you to do it, you don’t need to pray for Him to nag you about it for the next two months.

Step 2: Read the background of Amos, and then read the book of Amos itself. If God can use Him, He can use you. Realize you’re completely qualified, and start confidently. (You can really read the story of almost anyone who was known to do great things in the bible. I just like Amos because it’s one we don’t often think of.)

Step 3: Tell people about it, ask people to pray about it, and see if anyone wants to join you (assuming it’s something big and seemingly insurmountable without God’s help. If it’s something small, just do it. You’re probably only reading this to keep putting it off).

Step 4: Tell more people about it. (Basically never stop telling people about it.) Figure out a game-plan. It might start with “tell people about it,” but it should move along to something like, “write a  mission statement,” or, “apply for a non-profit ID number” or “buy plane tickets,” or “write a support letter.” Just make some basic steps like that. After you have a blueprint, tell more people about it with your new clarity and vision for God’s plan.

Step 5: Do the first thing on your blueprint. And after you do that, do the second thing. And then keep doing. Eventually, you’ll be able to recognize that you’re moving uphill.

Step 6: If you put your all into it, and it doesn’t work, don’t get mad at God. Instead, thank Him. Pray about it. Write down things you may have learned along the way, realize it wasn’t that scary, and get ready for whatever’s next. God will probably use something you learned in the future.

The truth is, we’re all afraid of the majority of things God will tell us to do, but it’s usually easier than you’d think to start doing them (which is something I’ve realized in my head, but still struggle to apply). I was talking with my bible study the other day, and mentioned how my life is completely different than I expected. They asked me how, and my response was, “Well, I’m basically doing all of things I was afraid of trying four years ago. And now I never want to do the things I thought I’d be doing, because this plan is so much better than the one I had for myself.” God is continually challenging me, and I’m continually hesitating, making excuses, and making slow progress towards where He’s leading me. But I am making progress, and the quicker I can build up steam, the quicker things will move forward.

Remember that if you are moving forward, God is patient. He won’t abandon you just because of your pace. Just don’t stop in Kansas – be sure to drive straight through with the vision of the view ahead.

UNCLENCH YOUR FIST

“Our hearts ache, yet we always have joy. We are poor, yet we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, yet we have everything.”            – 2 Corinthians 6:10

Oh, how counter-cultural this verse is to the Christianity I see today. The Christians I see today don’t display these traits, and that includes myself. I look around the room I’m in and see things I don’t need. I see excess, waste, and resources that could be better used, and this is evidence that I am not so detached from my belongings to the point of them being worthless to me. I am not at a level where I can proclaim that I have “nothing, yet everything.”

I am at a place where I could only proclaim that I have some things, and have some better things. I have possessions, and I have God. I have the things I cling to, and I have the things He’s given me thus far. I know that what He gives are the better things – much better in fact – yet the things I cling to are not the things I hold together with God, but the things I only hold myself. I am not yet at the point of possessing His entire character and letting go of my own insecurities, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be there before I leave this earth.

I still have me – some flawed parts of me – and until I lose those parts which He wants to take, I cannot have everything He wants to give me. Until I vanquish those parts of me, I only have most everything in Him – and the rest, which He wants to give, is only potential.

Yet in order to reach that potential, I must act! I must give! I must ask Him to point out those things I am clinging to and unclench my fist from the, letting Him take them. When He takes all is when 2 Corinthians 6:10 can be made true in my life and yours. It may be uncomfortable, terrifying, and uncertain, but it will also be full of comfort, peace, and certainty because we have let the One who knows better take control! We have let Him take everything, leaving us everything in return.

Give it all, and be given it all. This is the outcome of total surrender. Unclench your fist and let whatever you’re grasping fall to the ground.

LESSONS FROM A BROKEN MIRROR

“There has never yet been a saint who has not lived a maimed life initially. Yet it is better to enter into life maimed but lovely in God’s sight than to appear lovely to man’s eyes but lame to God’s.”   -Oswald Chambers

When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Do we see a ‘good person,’ or a man or woman living a ‘good life?’ We’d probably say so, but we shouldn’t see these things! Rather, we should see a life of repair. A life broken. We should see the ugliness inside ourselves, and the beauty of Christ through His never-ending work in us. We should be in a pursuit to see less of us and more of Him, and as we begin to see Christ, and accept His gift and love given to us, we can begin to see His plan for us and His purpose for us. And that purpose is ultimately to restore us to beauty – a beauty we cannot achieve on our own – because as we are restored by Christ, it becomes more and more obvious to the world who is doing the restoring, and our lives begin to accomplish the ultimate purpose: to bring Him glory!

The greatest amount of beauty in us can only be found by reflecting Him throughout our lives and towards others, and our life purpose should be pursuing that beauty in total disregard of the world’s opinion or persuasion.We are to live life thankfully broken, knowing the only One who can use our brokenness! A shattered mirror is only as useful as what the person looking into it sees. Do you see a purpose behind your brokenness, and a pursuit towards repair? Or are you too busy praying for God to repair the mirror, unable to notice what God can use it for?

“. . . what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour?”

But for this purpose I came to this hour.

“Father, glorify Your name.”     -John 12:27-28

Through our sorrow, and the moments we need repair, let us not ask God to fix us. Rather, ask Him to use us to glorify His name!