Saturday, September 05, 2009

# 285: The Religion of Love

There are hundreds, possibly even thousands of aspects to the Christian religion which are interconnected and stem from love: God’s love for us, our love for our neighbor, our love for God and Jesus Christ, His love for us, and our love for each other, etc. Love is what binds us together as a unit, which is called the Church.

When our Christian life is void of genuine love, it is a false form of Christianity. Of course, love has little or nothing to do with the necessary and essential chores in life--I don’t mean those kinds of things.

Genuine Christ-like love is never concerned with how we will make out as we give needed love, but will it make the loved one think that Christianity may be the right religion. In other words, the motive behind loving the unbeliever without expecting anything materially in return is a way of possibly expanding the Kingdom by one or more people. As one can tell, there is a method to our madness: gain.

Making the invisible God visible with our love is the job of every Christian. I can honestly say that so-called Christians in general get a failing grade in this essential endeavor. The reason may be our lack of divine love. To be effective, love must be genuine. When genuine Godly love is the motivator in what we do, it becomes an irresistible, visible force.

Many don’t realize that since God is Love, love and only love--not meaning self-love--must be the driving force that compels us to live and obey all that is commanded in the New Testament (NT).

The two most compelling verses in the complete Bible are the foundation of all else. Better yet, all that is done or not done must stem from these two verses: Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Luke and Mark also add ‘and with all your strength.’” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is similar: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here is the funny thing about Christianity as we now have it: those two commandments are the most ignored and watered-down of all by most denominations. It seems that Christianity has been made into a religion of self-betterment, while occasionally still using the word “love.”

I personally have heard it said by preachers that those two commandments couldn’t be obeyed by anyone; it is impossible. Given that, it seems as though love has been deleted as the foundation of the religion of love.

Here is where the oxymoron lies: just because those commandments are higher than the clouds for us to reach, they are to be every Christian’s “holy grail”/unreachable goal. We are to continually strive by making every effort to reach that goal. The term “make every effort” is in at least half a dozen NT verses. That is one reason I have written many times that the Christian religion is the most challenging endeavor on this earth. There can be no slacking off.

Just remember this: genuine love is the most powerful and desired force in the whole universe, though many would desire riches, power and fame in its stead. And on the top of the list of the greatest forces is God’s love for us. Nevertheless, if we are not aware of His love for us, it will not do us much, if any, good. I understand that it will not be easy to actually experience His love. But once a person does, it will be like holding the world on a string. That love gives one the power, desire and motivation to live as we are commanded in the NT.

When it comes to the words “hate” and “love,” there seem to be several contradictions in the NT. I will attempt to clarify them so that there will be no confusion. To love as the NT commands will, at times, be very challenging. For example: it is not natural to love your enemies or those who hate you. Yet, we are commanded to love them and be good to them. The main reason we must act in such a kind way is to somehow get them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

With that in mind, we must not waste our time on anyone who seems continually contrary to the gospel message. Therefore, we have to use wisdom and discretion in how we act with this verse in mind. Matthew 7:6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

When a person is loved by a human, that person wants to please the one who loves her/him by loving in return. The same is true with God; we want to please Him in every way.

The next several verses might seem to contradict each other, but it is not so. John 12:25: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Ephesians 5:29: “After all, no one hates his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”

Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.”

There seems to be something wrong with this verse, but Matthew says almost the same thing, giving a more moderate rendition.

Matthew 10:37-39: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Even with Matthew’s version, this could be one of the most difficult commands to obey. But what these verses are saying is not to love your family members any less than you now do, but to love Jesus Christ more strongly than you love your precious family members. In short, our love and devotion for Jesus Christ surpasses our love for any earthly person or thing. The question arises: why must we love, or better yet, how can we love Christ in this fashion?

This is the answer: because He is of greater importance than any other human. Successfully making this most challenging change may be the downfall of many. This will separate the sheep from the goats, because it is of vital importance. This may not happen overnight, but if God’s Holy Spirit is working unhindered in you and me, it will eventually come to fruition. I have to admit that this has been the hardest verse for me personally to obey.

This verse and others like it imply that Christianity is not just an add-on to one’s life, allowing one to avoid going to hell by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior—it is the most important endeavor possible, and it will eventually consume our lives.

It is also a test to see if our love for God and Christ are for real. If it isn’t, this verse will be avoided and blacked-out in the Bibles of many. This verse also validates the verse previously mentioned, the foundation of the complete NT: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Simply put, Christian love must be more than beautiful words and songs, but action. Love implies action; action concerning our love for Christ must supersede all other loves and desires. Love/Christianity is serious business.

Luke 12:51: “Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” [in the family].

This above verse says that because of our commitment to Christ, some family members will not go along with Christ’s radical commandments, and thus there will be some sort of strife. I have seen this happening in several families.

Luke 6:27-28, 31: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This above verse will also be contrary to the laws of nature into which we were born. We would normally avoid our enemies and hate them and wish they would go to hell. I have many enemies who hate me for my stance of exposing the fallacies in traditional Christianity. I am occasionally confronted by them: I am usually treated somewhat cordially, but I can tell that they would like to wring my neck by the look in their eyes. I truthfully feel sorry for them if they believe they are telling the whole truth, but I have mixed emotions about those who know that they are deliberately deceiving the laity.

In ending, I believe the thing that bothers me most is the clergy not emphasizing the seriousness of being a disciple of Christ. The reason may be that they want the congregation back next week, and if they make them feel guilty for not doing/obeying what the NT commands, they will never come back to that church.

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