Monday, July 28, 2008

God's Unconditional Love

Another subject I've been thinking about and studying is God's unconditional love. I have heard about His love my whole life. I heard once that someone asked Billy Graham what was the most important thing he had learned in all his years of ministry and he said, "Jesus loves me, this I know." We have all sang that song, but did we really grasp the fullness of it? I think people can have a hard time believing in God's love for them if they have been through a tough time in their life. You see it all the time - children who grew up with an abusive father have a hard time relating to God as a Father. I have also seen how a person's view of God's love can be affected by being in a controlling, abusive church. Just like children think that their parents are a picture of God, I think young Christians look up to the church leaders to show them who God is. Church leaders should always point people to Jesus and be a picture of His love, but that doesn't always happen and it has caused some precious people to stumble.

I can see how people have the wrong impression of who God is because of certain things that have gone on in controlling churches. I think people unknowingly place God in the same category as the men of God in their lives. When they see their leaders acting in unloving or manipulative ways they automatically think that these men are representing God's character. I do not expect anyone to be perfect, but using ordinary, everyday people skills is a good place to start. They should just stop and ask the question, "How is what I am about to do or say going to affect this person?" One time I was in a meeting and I was pointed out and embarrassed in front of the whole congregation. I wanted to burst into tears and run out. I was able to hold it in, but I was standing there thinking, "Would God do this to me? Would He embarrass me like this?" I don't believe that He would ever do anything to hurt any of his children, but I can understand why people would question. I think some of the ways God is portrayed are very insulting to Him. I can see Him wanting to call out to people, "That is not the way I am! I am a gentleman!"

I saw something on the Internet the other day that made me cringe as I watched. There was a guy talking about a meeting he was preaching at and he said he was walking down the prayer line asking God why He wasn't healing people. (I know this sounds terrible, but I want to make a point.) He said that God told him that he needed to kick this certain lady in the face. He looked up and saw this 60 year old lady standing there with her eyes closed. He said he kicked her right in the face with his biker boot. I don't see how anyone could believe that these were God's instructions. Would God - a loving Father - ever tell someone to kick a lady in the face? I know if someone kicked me or my daughter in the face, my husband would be very upset. What are these types of behaviors saying to the world? Simple common sense tells us these are not loving behaviors. No wonder people in the world are not running to the church. Why would they want to subject themselves to things like this? Let's take the simple love test - would you want someone to treat your wife, mother, or child like this? Would you want someone to hurt them or call them a name? If you wouldn't, then neither would God.

I heard of a story where a young man had not been to church in years, but his family finally talked him into going. He had always had a bad case of psoriasis on the back of his head, so he wore caps to cover it up. He walked in the front door of the church and was met by someone telling him to remove his cap. He tried to explain to them that he needed to wear the cap because of his condition, but he was told, "I don't care what your problem is, you can't wear a cap in here because it shows disrespect to God." The young man turned around and walked out and never went back to another church. He wanted nothing to do with God or church after that. He had not been shown the love of God. That saddens me greatly. I don't think God cared for one second if that young man wore that cap into church. I think God cared much more about his soul than a rule!

I shared these stories, not to make people upset, but to show that these are not God's ways. His way is love. When people don't show His love, it's not His fault. He gets blamed for a lot of things He never had a part in. The church must keep their focus on God's love! Love is what really matters to God! People's lives could be hanging in the balance and one act of love could make the difference. Churches should never be so focused on keeping rules that they overlook a hurting person who needs the love of God. That young man should have been told, "Sure you can wear that cap, we're just glad you're here!" I John 4:7-8 says, "My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love - so you can't know Him if you don't love." These verses are very clear. If people don't love, then they don't know God - God is love!

I haven't heard many sermons taught on God's unconditional love, but I believe that people would be drawn to God much more because of His love for them, rather than the fear of what will happen if they don't follow the rules. We must realize that we can't do anything that will make Him love us any more or any less. The truth is that we don't have to do anything to earn God's unconditional love. We already have it! Think about it this way - do your children have to do something to earn your love? Do they have to give you money to make you love them? Do they walk around on pins and needles scared that if they make one wrong move you will pound them? No! We love our children, and there is nothing they can do to earn our love. We love them, not based on what they do, but who they are. God is the same with us! We were created because He wanted to have children to love and there is nothing we can do to earn His love. He just loves us! These are the things we need to be more focused on if we want to reach a lost and dying world.

I have heard it said many times that if people see us prosper and see us live in big houses they will want to serve God. I think that you can live in the biggest house in the world, but if you don't have love, people will not listen to you! People are looking for one thing to fill the void in their lives and it's God's unconditional love.

*I have added links on the sidebar to some wonderful articles on God's love.


Anonymous said...

Your post today really hits home with me. The story you told about the man with the ball cap is really sad. I was in an abusive and controlling church for years and unconditional love was never the subject of choice. There, love was measured by how you honored your pastor and didn't question authority or by how much you put in the offering. Because we never reached out to the hurting, we had very few visitors and the church started to get smaller. It's sad to say, but we judged everyone by what they looked like or by the possessions they had. As a result, I'm sure we missed many opportunities to change the course of people's lives through God's unconditional love.

Thank God we saw the error and we got out of that place! Now we are reaching out and sharing God's love with others! I go to church on Sunday and I see new people every week. Some have piercings, tattoos, mohawks...and I just smile--knowing they are loved and accepted. It has changed me and for that, I am thankful! Glory to God!

Anonymous said...

It helps me to relate God's love and man's love, as we are made in His image. If I want my children to be happy and healthy, how much more does God want us happy and healthy, etc.?
One day recently I was dealing with a situation with one of my children. They were not showing me respect. It hurt. After all, have I not given so much of myself to and for them? I did not like them or their attitude at that moment, yet I "love" them. I was suddenly reminded of God's everlasting love that reaches out to us even when we don't appreciate all His blessings and at times fail Him. I had to stop and thank Him!
I was disappointed that God's love was not shown properly toward us and others at a former church. We must remember God's precious gifts are bestowed on imperfect people and people can fail us, but not our loving Father!
I heard my husband share recently about God directing him to reach out to a man who the world might consider "unlovely". He chose to obey. Right choice.
I think we all need to consider "what really matters". I think loving one another is high on the list!

Anonymous said...

Great post. 1Cor.13:13 in the message says that love is true affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us.....and the greatest of these is love.

getting there said...

It is amazing.. now I see so much. The church would regard us as not doing well spiritually if we had financial difficulty.. like we had lack of faith or something.. I am so glad I have come out of it.