Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where Is the Love?

Where is the love? It's there.

The question posed is absurd- if God took heaven off the table, would we still love Him? And what might that love look like? Absurd because God promises heaven. But the question begs because it makes me wonder, do we just do the paces for the eternal reward?

What is love? The tough part about defining love is that, in English, the word love covers a lot of ground. But let's take this to a level of the love a man and woman have for each other, for the sake of analogy to get a grasp on the subject.

Some say that love is not something you can control, that it's this weird spritual, emotional and physical magnetic cosmic fate. That's just stupid, although it makes for some watchable Hollywood fare. Some say love is an emotion that you either have or you don't. Some say they fell madly in love. Some say they fell out of love. Again, all indicating there's no choice in the matter.

I say love is proven by action, and that raw emotion without the mature choices made to act upon it is without worth. I say love is not the blushing bride who is worried about her hair and wedding dress, but the 70-year-old woman cleaning up her paralyzed husband of fifty years. I say love is not the starry-eyed young man trying to buy a woman a drink at a bar, but the husband who speaks highly of his wife consistently in public and in private. The wife who signs her husband up for art school. The husband who cheers on his wife as she pursues her masters degree.

Do we work harder at a job that we get paid more for, or one that we love?

Love is the actions of someone who is genuinely interested in the personal growth of the one he loves, even at the cost of potentially high personal sacrifice, and without the condition of return.

That's lofty. But that's how God loves us.

What if we loved God like that? What would that look like? That we would be interested in the growth of God's kingdom simply because we love him? Personal sacrifice? Unconditional? How much would it change our habits, our attitudes, our direction in life?


How much greater can the motivation of love be over reward?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's the Afterlife, Stupid

The quote that got me going was the following: "You'll die and go to hell if you don't accept Christ" is good enough for me, but I know others need more convincing." My interpretation for that statement is that the writer's sole purpose for being a Christian is the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack church box. And thus began my pondering about exactly how much of a factor heaven should play in our walk with God.

In the Old Testament Heaven is mentioned as God's dwelling place several times, but - get this - exactly one time as the future home for the righteous, in II Kings 2:11 when Elijah is called up into heaven. Before that, there's really no indication in the Bible that that's where we're going, and until the New Testament it's not mentioned as such again (except vaguely in connection with the Hebrew concept of Sheol). Without stretching, that's it gang. Hey, naturally, if I'm mistaken about this please clarify, but I think i'm onto something here.

Now again, let me make this VERY clear, I believe that there is an afterlife, and that Heaven is the dwelling of place of God, and that those whose sins are washed by the blood of Jesus at the cross are admitted there. I'm NOT making these statements to question the existence of heaven.

I am, however, very interested in the faith of the Jews who loved God and (for the most part) did their best to obey Him without obsessing about the afterlife. In fact, they seemed a whole lot more interested in what was going on here on the ground. Huh.

So what was their motivation? Was it fear? Guilt? Manipulation? I think nothing so cynical as these, which might cause some to label me as naive, but hey- those same people would probably question the existence of God and heaven anyway, and they'd be wrong, so what care I?

No, I believe they walked the walk because they adored God.

They adored God. They were impressed with His majesty and His creation, and His promises and fulfilment of promises. They were awed by a God that created the world, and the sun and moon and stars, and who took a personal interest in them. They worshipped him like the God that He is.

It wasn't about heaven- it was about God.

I think heaven will be a great place, but the thing that makes it great is that it's where God lives.
So, I wonder, what if we explore that kind of faith? And so my question is this for tonight:
If God took heaven back off the table, would you still love Him?

Ah, but that requires that we define love. And that, I believe, will bring us closer to the core of what God has in mind for us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Heaven or Hell

This week, I noticed what I think is a very basic problem with a lot of Christianity (not the message of Christ, mind you, but rather a problem with those that call themselves followers of Christ). I'm not quite sure why I never noticed it before.
John 3:16 reads "For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." Nothing wrong with that, of course. But the hang-up I think a lot of us have is that our whole faith has boiled down to this, and while it's an important fact it's really just a piece of the whole pie.
I mean, do we really base our entire purpose for following God on the promise that we're going to avoid hell? Seriously?
Now I'll admit, I believe in heaven and hell. I think hell is someplace you DON'T want to go and heaven is where you DO want to go, particularly when you're talking about existing in wither place forever and ever. And I believe that the only way you get to heaven is by Jesus Christ's admission. Not a thing we can do to be good enough to get into that party, and that's that.
But is that really why we go to church, is that the only reason we pray, is that really all we have to offer someone when we're a witness for God? Is it just the difference between heaven and hell?
For me it is not. And when all of scripture is simply boiled down to the rewards in the afterlife, I believe we've missed the boat.
I'll be exploring this in the next few entries, and I welcome your comments and critique.