Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jealous Love

Last Sunday, a fiery old preacher ranted that God doesn't love everybody. He quoted Psalm 5:5 which says that God "hates all workers of iniquity." In that case, God hates everybody, because we all sin. 1 John 1:8 says "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." In reality, in the Psalm that the preacher quoted, the Hebrew word for "hate" indicates enmity. It's not that God doesn't love sinners, but those who live in rebellion against Him are choosing to be His enemies. However, Jesus taught that we should love our enemies. And Jesus never espoused something that He didn't practice. Yes, God loves His enemies. Romans 5:8 says "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This shows that God loved us before we were saved. And of course there is John 3:16 that says "For God so loved the world." Yes, that refers to the people in the world.

Why is this important? I feel the need to contend for the charitable love of God, because that cardinal truth is the only hope this world has. If God only loves us when we love Him, then we are in trouble because that kind of love is no different than any other love. That kind of love won't save us. That's a narcisistic love. But God's love is an agape love, which surpasses affections and conditions. We must remember that we only loved God because He first loved us. There was no other love for us to draw upon. We were helpless. That kind of divine love is not within us. But God's heroic love came to our rescue, and gave us the ability to love rightly.
Romans 2:4 reminds us that God's lovingkindness leads us to repentance. God's impending wrath may drive us to repent out of sheer terror. But God desires our love more than our fear. His lovingkindness persists to win over our hearts with His gentle outstretched hand, as if trying to earn the trust of a skiddish animal. 2 Corrinthians 7:10 adds that "godly sorrow brings repentance." If you love someone then you don't want to hurt them. When they grieve, you grieve. Love always opens the door to potential heartache. God loves us enough to become vulnerable to how we feel about Him. He is jealous for us, like a husband is jealous for his wife and doesn't want to share her with another dude. God is so jealous for us that he doesn't want to share us with the idols and devils of this world. And He is so jealous for us that he doesn't want us to give ourselves over to death and hell. He wants to spend an eternity with us. When we practice sin, we are cheating on God and trampling on His heart and it shows that we don't really care about Him. But if we truly love Him, then our sin toward God should produce in us a godly sorrow. We will want to tell God we are sorry, because we truly are sorry. It will not be an obligatory sorrow, but a heartfelt sorrow that churns our stomachs. I hate hurting people that I love. I hate hurting God. It all comes back to love.

Honestly, I don't like to dwell on the wrathful side of God, but it's not going to go away. I know God's wrath is fueled by His just nature, but I think it is also tempered with His jealous love. The absence of love is indifference. God is not indifferent. Sometimes, anger is the posterity of love (not in an abusive sense). The people that I get mad at the most are the people that I love the most. They have exclusive access to my innermost parts and are most able to prick my heart. God is angered by our sin because of His jealous love for us. Our sin distances us from Him, and He wants us to draw nearer. The pinnacle of God's wrath is the removal of His presence, because in His presence is absolute goodness and felicity. When we speak of God's wrath we are not alluding to a hot-tempered God who constantly flies off the handle, but we are talking about a God who is longsuffering and is willing that none should perish. But if a person tells God to "get lost" enough times, then they will eventually get their wish and they will find themselves in a place devoid of beauty. The only reason there is good in this world is because God has not abandoned it. This is not a God-forsaken planet. . .it is a God-forsaking planet.

We will not fully appreciate heaven, until we realize hell. We will not fully appreciate grace, until we realize sin. Likewise, it is healthy and realistic to view God's kindness in contrast to His wrath. We could easily become like that little girl who thinks she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger. And if we're not careful, we could begin to see God as a big pushover who is easy to manipulate and take advantage of. But God is not so easily fooled. His love is not blind. And those who test the limits of His patience will find themselves falling over the edge. There is a side to love that is terrifying. Hell has no fury like a God scorned.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Online Love

Last week, a friend of mine asked what I thought about online dating. He looked around to make sure nobody was listening and said he was asking on behalf of someone else who was considering online dating. I was mildly suspicious, but I played along. And tried not to laugh.
I gave my gut reaction. I hadn't thought about it much before, because I never took the idea seriously. For me, online dating was always in the same category as Russian mail-order brides and Halo.

There are sins and there are bad ideas. I personally don't think online dating is a sin. But I always like to look at what's going on below the surface and examine the deeper issues. One of the deeper issues is convenience. Love is being corralled into the world of drive-thru coffee stands and instant popcorn and shiatsu massage chairs and Walmart. It's all about convenience. Putting yourself out there, taking a risk and pursuing someone in real life is just plain inconvenient. Waiting for that one right person to come along is also inconvenient. Leaving the house--inconvenient.
For the Christian, God's sovereignty is a major factor when it comes to finding "Mr. or Ms. Right." If there were no God, then it would be completely serendipitous. There would be no guarantee that we would ever find that soul-mate. But if a Christian believes that God has a plan for their life, then that includes their love life. Afterall, marrying someone is one of the most important decisions we'll ever make. God has a vested interest. We second-guess God when His time-line for us isn't the same as everyone else's time-line.
I'm not sure if there is only one "Mr. or Ms. Right" out there or if there are just a lot of "Mr. and Ms. Wrong's" to be avoided like landmines. The Bible doesn't really say, and in the Old Testament people had multiple wives, which is completely insane. I wonder how many wives 'smarty-pants' Solomon would've had if online dating existed back then. Anyway, the question "Is there only one right person out there for me?" spills into the subject of predestination and God's foreknowledge, which is all too erudite for this blog. As for me, I continue to pray that God's will would overrule mine when it comes to love, because He has a good plan and He knows best. And I have made Him Lord over my life, which includes my love life. I'm not advocating passivity, but trust. I trust God because I know He loves me. My parents want what's best for me and so does my heavenly Father. Often, I don't know what's best for me. Often, I don't know what I should be looking for. So, I trust and obey, knowing that every step of obedience will eventually lead me to a crossroad where love will be waiting as if it had been there all along. To be fair, I must say that if God is sovereign, then He could use whatever means in order to bring two people together, including online dating. It just seems more forced and impatient, but that is only my opinion.

Which brings me to the next issue--control. Most of the time, my computer obeys me pretty well. It's very humble. It's a Christian computer. Anyway, I feel like I'm in control when I'm on my computer. I can only imagine that online dating invokes a similar sensation. And yet love is such a wildly unpredictable force. It defies boxes and cages. The love of another cannot be controlled. That's why God gave us a freewill. If we had no choice, then we could not choose to love Him. Online dating appears to force love into a controlled-environment. I looked at Match.com to get a feel for it's interworkings. The whole process appeals to our desire for control. Online dating allows people to browse from a safe-distance without giving up any control. And they can control who is readily available by checking boxes about what kind of person they want to date. It promises life-long love in 6 months or less. In that case, love could fit into our dayplanner. Yes, we like control.
Glamour Magazine said this about Match.com: "It's like Baskin-Robbins' 31 flavors: blondes, redheads, Egyptians and probably a set of Siamese twins if you were to search long enough." This statement says it all. It borders on the pornographic. Pornography also capitalizes on the desire for control. Perhaps, online sex is the extreme of online dating.

I do wonder if some of us are trying to find perfect love in this world, putting people in the place of God. Expecting another human to be my Savior is expecting a lot. Online dating seems to promise perfect love. People will be let down when they find out that love is not convenient. What happens when virtual reality crashes into reality? Online daters will be wrecked when they find out that the person they fell in love with through online chatting doesn't really exist. Perfect love doesn't exist in this world. God is that love, which we crave. Will that supernova of truth ever set us free?