God Time for December 17-23
(start with five minutes of appreciation memories)
Monday December 19
Love one another as I have loved you.
There is a lot of confusion over the use of the word, “love” today. We don’t get what love means. Not really.
Sometimes we use the word “love” to mean we have a strong passion for something.
We love chocolate, love our favorite tv series, love our football team. This is not love. It is desire or delight.
There are other ways the term, “love” is misused. In fact in the recent election, a misuse of the word “love” became part of political campaign. The whole “Love Trumps Hate” slogan not only got “love” wrong, it got “hate” wrong, too. At least from a biblical perspective. “Love trumps hate” is a clever phrase. But, as usual, people pass off cleverness as intelligence. Far from it.
The biblical meaning of love and hate are not represented by this slogan. To love someone is to will what God wants for them and work for this within your range of influence.
It does not mean to try to please their desires and champion the cause of them doing whatever they want.
To hate someone is to try to work evil in their life on purpose. It doesn’t mean to disagree or oppose their viewpoint. Confusing?
I don’t know if you watched the news, but when I saw “Love Trumps Hate” sign holders or t shirts wearers, the people usually appeared filled with rage and contempt. Well, that doesn’t work.
Being bigoted against those you consider bigoted makes you a bigot.
If you hate haters you are a hater.
And, if you are a Christian full of rage and contempt, you are showing you do not understand Jesus.
I suppose someone has the right to be uneducated about the meaning of love and hate if they are not a Christian, but if you are following the model of Christ, you need to show far more wisdom. Rage and contempt are not part of Jesus.
Christians can’t hate. We cannot work evil on purpose against someone. Not ever. 100% of the time God wants good to come to the lives of even those whom we consider most vile. Rage and contempt are never an option for Christians. You see, love is actually an overall disposition toward what is good and right in God’s eyes. Dallas Willard says it this way:
“Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that kind of situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life, whatever is or is not going on. The “occasions” are met with from that overall character. I do not come to my enemy and then try to love them, I come to them as a loving person. Love is not a faucet to be turned on or off at will. God himself doesn’t just love me or you, he is love. He is creative will for all that is good. That is his identity, and explains why he loves individuals, even when he is not pleased with them. We are directed by Paul to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us.” (Eph. 5: 1-2) We are called and enabled to love as God loves.”
People who speak out about hate might be the most hate-full people you know. Why is that?
Tuesday December 20
1 John 4
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Why is there confusion in what “love” means? More than anything, it is because love is not practiced much. Even by Christians. We say love is central to the message of Jesus. Central to our faith. But, where do we actually find this in any doctrinal statements? For instance, every week we confess our faith at worship, but the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t even mention love.
In fact, many people who identify as Christian do not love one another and may clearly despise or be contemptuous of those around them. Even in families. Even in church communities.
Where is the confusion? Dallas Willard again.
“Love is not an action, it is not a desire or a feeling. Love is not an emotion or intention…Desire and feelings fall into the domain of impulse, not that of choice. They aim at their satisfaction, not at what is better and possibly best. Choice considers alternatives and weighs what is best. If its vision is broad enough, it will find what is good and right. If it is surrendered to God, united with his will, it will be able to do what is best. That of course is the nature of love. It seeks what is best.”
This is why love is not something you choose to do, but what you choose to be. You don’t try to become a more loving person, but working in community with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you become the kind of person who can love. The kind of person who routinely and easily loves others.
“I just can’t love so and so…” “I will try harder loving so and so…” Why are these statements incorrect?
Wednesday December 21
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
The sum of what it means to live like Jesus is become the kind of person who loves like Jesus. When we partner with him and he dwells in us, we have supernatural power for good flowing through us. A side effect of this is that we will conform to the moral laws. Do you see what this means?
We don’t try to follow the ten commandments and other moral law, we fulfill the law already automatically when we are living out of God’s nature, not human nature. When our actions are loving because, “what else would they be?”- we begin to show we understand.
The ten commandments are guidelines for living but they are also a mirror to show us what we are not doing. Think about this.
Thursday December 22
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Yes, Jesus is the ultimate picture of what it means to be a loving person. As we see in the Garden of Gethsemane, he could have wiped out his enemies. He would be right to defend himself. But, he chooses another way. When Peter attacks the Temple guard, Jesus says put your sword back.
It wasn’t about Jesus to seek revenge or destroy his enemies, even in this case, where he is 100% justified to do so. Jesus seeks the greater good. God comes into the world as Jesus to transform the lives of Temple guards, not destroy them.
Here is where we want to find ourselves. Seeking the good of others, especially if we disagree with them. Being kind and gracious toward those who are not kind and gracious is a sign that God is working through us. We want what God wants for people.
Does God want people to be separated from him? Why would we want that?
Friday December 23
1 Corinthians 14
Let love be your greatest aim.
In our society today, Christmas is just about the last hold out for a glimpse of the world as it could be. People tend to be a bit more gracious and kind. It is as if we are influenced by a spirit of what we know life could be. At its best, Christmas gently reminds us that power comes through something besides wealth or might or popularity. A baby laying in a feed trough in a cave, born in obscurity, points to a God who is full of surprises.
The biggest surprise of all is that the creator of the universe wants to be our loving Father and takes us into his family just as we are. How surprising is it that God knows us individually, just as well as he knows himself.
Yes, God is thinking about you constantly. But, he isn’t wracking his brain trying to figure out what to get you for Christmas. He is thinking about ways he can shine brighter in your life. He knows if you give him any crack of opening, he will overpower you with his love. He will bowl you over with how much he adores you.
Love doesn’t mean we get whatever we want. Unless what we want is what God wants for us. Then there is nothing in heaven or earth that can stop us from getting exactly what we want.
Think of it this way. As we are becoming the kind of people who can love, we are becoming the kind of people who automatically do what is right without thinking about it. Then, when we join together with each other and live this way, the world around us becomes more of what God wants. Together, we become, Immanuel, God with us, for the world. We become love.
It’s not enough for me to be the kind of person who can love. I need you to be that person too. How might I help?