I’ve been thinking about some of this stuff a lot lately. It has a lot to do with
God and how He loves us and how we try to love Him and each other.
I think a lot of our unhealthy ways of relating to each other have a lot to do with our unhealthy ways of views of God and how those views inform how we relate to Him. We then relate to other people how we think God relates to us. At least it often works that way.
This was honestly going to be a post on Facebook but it got too long.
Fear and guilt really are poor motivators. I can sometimes use them to change behaviors, but crushing people’s spirits into the shape I want, makes both them and me less human. Even worse, I take on part of the enemy’s work: accusing.
As long as sin has been around most people have known there’s something wrong with them.
I know. I know it well.
But simply being aware of my depravity did nothing to change my heart. That awareness only increased my burden, as I tried and mostly failed to do what I was supposed to do.
It took a force much bigger than laws and guilt to change me: it took Love incarnate.
Yes. It took relentless, terrifying, scandalous, humble, servant, sacrificial, love to break and began to remake me.
God loved me before I loved Him and that’s what actually started conforming me to Christ’s image, not me knowing I was a bad person. I want to give that to people. Free love.
Because love with stipulations isn’t love. It’s manipulation.
Love is instead, much more like breathing, as Jon Foreman, frontman of Switchfoot, and my songwriting hero, wrote in this song.
You breathe it in and let it go.
Every breath you take is not yours to own.
It’s not yours to hold.
Do you love me enough to let me go?
If you suck in two lungs full of air and hold your breath for long enough, you’ll soon discover that while you may have taken a breath, it doesn’t mean you’re breathing. It’s only when you engage in the whole process of taking and releasing breaths that you actually get to experience the good that breathing does for you.
It’s the same way with love. You might receive love from those around you, but trying to hold all of it inside you doesn’t work. You either release it to others or you start losing your ability to receive the life that comes from breathing.
And furthermore, trying to love someone while attaching stipulations to it is a bit like trying to survive only on shallow breaths. It’s like lacking the faith to believe that if you completely release a breath, there won’t be more air for you to inhale.
You can sort of survive on it, and it kind of looks and feels like the real thing, and it might feel safer, but eventually you’ll notice it wearing you down. It’s just not healthy. And the people around you notice it, and feel ill at ease, hoping you’ll learn to breathe properly and get the oxygen you need.
Clearly “loving” people this way, has similar effects. It goes through some of the same motions, but the longer this “strings attached” love goes on, the clearer it becomes to everyone involved, that the relationship isn’t thriving. It’s taking short shallow breaths and showing some signs of life, but it’s far from thriving.
I think God knew all of this stuff when He made us and that’s why He gives us the choice to love Him. He doesn’t manipulate us to scare us, or play mind games with us to try to get us to love Him. He just loves us. For free.
He sent Jesus to show us that and put into motion a Kingdom where that and other beautiful things are the reality, instead of things like fear and control that the devil’s been suggesting to us for a long time now.
When we use those old tactics to “love” people and “make them behave,” people around us are sometimes duped into it thinking it’s tough love. More likely though, they shake their heads and leave, thinking that God’s people too, are in the same business as everyone else, and using the same old methods. “What’s different about them anyway?”
Yes indeed. What is, if we resort to that?
But when we love people with the love God showed us, we show others a new reality and a little taste of the perfection that will one day be when our King returns to set up His kingdom and make all things new.
I’m relieved and grateful that God’s been patient with me because I find it really hard to love like He does. I like to make sure my love isn’t being wasted on ungrateful jerks. But He keeps showing me that I’m no better than anyone else, and I think my heart is slowly becoming softer and more
I hope that’s a reality for all of because apparently that’s a big way God plans to establish His kingdom in the here and now:
through us channeling His love to others who are thirsty for something different.
Something that doesn’t add to an already heavy yoke of sin and guilt, but instead gives the abundant life it promises.
Something that works a lot like breathing.
Something called love.