Thursday, January 11, 2007

Love as an Economic metaphor

On my drive home last night I was praying about a friend. This friend, like many other men, feels he has failed God. He didn't straight up say that, but I can tell in how he treats his wife, his relationship with God, how he prays, and just how he treats others in general.

I was praying that God would reveal to him that it doesn't matter how much he's messed up, God still loves him just the same; God still wants to use him just the same. I prayed that he would understand God's unconditional love--that God doesn't take away love because this guy messed up, but God continually gives him the ability to defeat Satan, to fight on His team, and to love others with God's love despite his imperfections.

As I prayed, God revealed something to me about my relationship with this person. As this person thought he was failing God, it affected his relationship with me. I realized that I had been looking at this person like he was failing me as well because he wasn't letting God work through him to love me the way I should be receiving God's love from him. I realized that when he failed me, I myself was withdrawing my love and respect from him because....basically because I felt he was failing me.

No wonder this guy doesn't understand God's unconditional love! All of the physical examples in his life tell him one thing: he fails someone, they withdraw love! No wonder he feels that when he fails God, he looses God's love!

God really convicted me that I need to stop withdrawing love and respect from him. Even if he's not loving me the way God wants him to, I am to still love and respect him as God does, no matter how he benefits me.

As author Donald Miller says, "The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money...If somebody is doing something for us, offering us something, be it gifts, time, popularity, or what have you, we feel they have value, we feel they are worth something to us, and, perhaps, we feel they are priceless....I used love like money...With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did...I used love like money, but love doesn't work like money. It is not a commodity. When we barter with it, we all lose. When the church does not love its enemies, it fuels their rage..."

Miller than goes on to tell a story of a friend who bothered him. To show this friend he didn't like what he was doing, he began displaying his dislike of the friend in his facial expressions and reactions. But he realized that "by withholding love from [his] friend, he became defensive, he didn't like [him], he thought [he] was judgmental, snobbish, proud, and mean. Rather than being drawn to [him], wanting to change, he was repulsed. [Miller] was guilty of using love like money, withholding it to get somebody to be who [he] wanted them to be."

Miller said that when he realized this and began pouring on the love, despite his dislikes of the guy, that he slowly began to change to adjust to what Miller thought was acceptable.

Really, all God wants us to do is love them-no matter their failures. I knew that, of course, don't we all? But it just hit me in a different way last night. If I can love him unconditionally, despite how he's failing me...and maybe, just maybe, as he physically sees my love for him, no matter his failures, maybe then he can come to understand God's love for him.

Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. Guide me to love others unconditionally, no matter what sin they're involved in or problem they're dealing with, that I would be your hands and feet and that they would understand your love better because of how they received it from me.

1 comment:

Bryan Riley said...

I remember reading that passage from Miller's book and then reading it out loud to my wife. What an excellent passage and a great post about God's love.

One of the messages God has been giving me of late is how that love means that He gives. He gives and gives and gives. When you read through the Bible with the lens on that God gives, freely, to all who will receive, it is amazing how clearly He demonstrates this of Himself. He doesn't demand anything of us. For God so loved the world that He gave... Yes, we must believe, but even the faith comes from Him. Ephesians 2. Amazing.

As He emphasized His giving to me I told Him... "Yes, I know that." I really didnt' get why He'd bother telling me that. And then He asked me this: "Bryan, do you believe it?"

When you decide how to spend your money, do you believe I am your supply? When you teach your children, do you show them faith in my promises? When you are sick, do you turn first to a chemical or to me in prayer? When you know someone has needs, do you give to them or even share with them what a giving God I AM?