Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Power of Love in Western Culture

The power of love.

It's such a simple word.  It's such an abused word.  Love.  So easily said, so easily tossed around.  Love is hard to live.

It's interaction in our lives and in our thoughts is extensive.  We give love.  We receive love.

We learn to love love.  We learn to hate love.

I believe the great hope within the modern mind throughout this country, the USA, is love.  We want to be loved.  And we want to give love.  It is inherent in our very nature that love ought to be placed on high, as a method for the direction and conclusion of our lives.  When our parents held us, cared for us when we scraped a knee on the playground, we saw love and felt love, and were glad.  When we made friends, and saw them last by our side in tough times, love's power was made perfect as a hope for better things to come.  In desiring companionship and family, we enter into marriage and have children to both give love to, and receive love from.  In that progression, God's love is eventually sought after and received as a gift, for the life of a Christian.

Personally, in my troubled life of the past, I learned to hate love with great passion.  Hope is so directly connected to love.  As long as I am receiving love and giving love, I see great hope in the present, past and future.  But when my love tank runs dry, I can neither give love nor receive it.  As a result my hope fades and depression sets in. 

How many of us have had romantic relationships, and by the end, having endured and/or given so much abuse and neglect, the entire sad affair collapses and we swear off love for good?  We say, "How can there be love, when I have been so fully abused and neglected by this person?"  And on a larger scale, if there is so much ruthless and terrible lack of love in the world...  If there is indeed so much evil that the simple thought of such despair, rage and agony afoot in the world makes me want to curl up in a ball, then how in fact can there be an all loving God?

Perhaps that is truly the root of the question so posed regarding evil in the world.  As we sit in this beautiful and prosperous country (less prosperous as of late) we have the time and creature comfort to boggle our own minds with such questions of evil.  We toil with these questions despite having faced so little of the brutal physical evils head on.  And we wonder: How can anything make sense, knowing tens of thousands slowly starve to death on the continent of Africa?  How can there be love, when thousands of young women are sold into sex trade slavery across the entire world?  And on and on those questions flow forth.

We as humans are frail things aren't we?  We're physical creations, obviously ingeniously created with all kinds of defenses, white blood cells, immunities, DNA written with various instructions to allow for growth at a young age, hands to write and read with, eyes to see, feet perfect to walk on, and so on and so forth.  But we're frail.  Our bodies grow, top off, then grow old, and we wither and die all generally within the frame of 100 years, often less.  All manner of things can go wrong, that allow for us to falter and fall apart though.

No water?  You're dead pretty quick, less than a week.
No food?   You're dead in 3 weeks.
No shelter? You're not gonna last long in Wisconsin, that's for sure.
No air?  You've got about two minutes.

And what about love?

For me, the less love I received, the less love I gave.  The less love I received, the more I needed and wanted for drugs of all manner to crush the pain of it momentarily.  The more empty my love tank became, the more my hope dwindled.

Love is essential for a Christian to give and receive.  Love is essential for anyone to have and hold within, as well as give away.

But what is love?  Let's look to the Bible to see what it says about this mysterious thing known in the English language as "love."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[a] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!


 What's the first thing it says?  Patient and kind.  You know the more I try to actively practice being patient and being kind, the more I enjoy both.  Grandma Steckbauer was absolutely right when she said, "It's nice to be nice."  And I'm sure shes not the only Grandmother who has said those words.  


 The love tank, a concept talked about in the Minirith Meier clinic's book "Love is a Choice: Recovery for Codependent Relationships" is a concept of a sort of invisible tank within the child that receives and gives love.  When the parents of the child did not have their love tanks adequately filled by their parents, they do not adequately give love to the child, and the child suffers as a result.  According to the book this is where a lot of strange ideas about romantic love come in.  It also says this is where a lot of poor relationships with friends, family, and even, and perhaps especially our relationship with God himself.


 In popular media you can see it everywhere.  We see music, movies, and so on with the idea of the partner completing the other partner.  Of one individual filling the void in the other.  Thus a romantic partner becomes a need, not a want.  The vacuum in the chest of the one is hoped to be filled by the other.  When the partner is unable to fill that hole, the relationship suffers and often crumbles.


 How often have I seen male and female friends a like desperately searching for that next relationship.  How often have I seen friends constantly jumping from one relationship to another, utterly terrified of being alone in their own thoughts without constant companionship from another.  That's another topic entirely.  The point is, patient and kindness come easily to one with a full love tank. (Note: If you feel you're operating as Christian or non-Christian with an empty love tank, a sort of void in your chest, I'd highly recommend "Love is a Choice."  Wonderful book.)


 My love tank was fairly well filled at a young age.  My mother was very close with me, and showered love upon me.  I was the apple of my grandmother's eye on one side, and on the other side of the family I received great love from that grandmother as well.  However I don't believe I received the kind of love I required from my father early in life.  My mother also constantly worked, so as I often say, I had three mothers: my biological mother Karen, my grandmother Patty, and my aunt Colleen.  I was quite truly raised by women, which I believe gave me a compassionate and thoughtful heart later in life, to this very day which I am eternally grateful to God for.  However, in my teens, as my parents began edging toward divorce, things went astray in the love area.  My father seemed to live vicariously through me, attempting to obtain victories through my life he had failed to achieve in his.  There was little love, and more so a manipulative sort of ordering about going on.  My mother, confused and uncertain about the marriage leaned on me for advice and love when my parents fought, draining my love tank of assets I required for my own mental health.


Love is not jealous, boastful or proud or rude.  Jealousy aroused may often indicate a codepedent nature to the relationship, where the relationship is needed, not desired.  Does pride come about from a preponderance of love, or a severe lack of love?  Rude, you get the picture.  


We get a wonderful description of what love is, and what love is not from the passage in Corinthians.  We also get a clue to ministry in the United States from the end of this passage.  Special knowledge becomes useless, but love lasts forever.  


Knowledge is very useful in the current climate of information in the United States.  We have a huge amount of information thrown at us daily, most of it entirely useless.  So much knowledge is only a search engine click or two away. Malcom Muggeridge said in his book Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society: "Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over--a weary, battered old brontosaurus--and became extinct." 


I think my favorite part of that particular quotation is "educated himself into imbecility."  The ironic ends to the various pursuits of man, population growth and then desiring decreased population, anti-depressants with suicide as a side effect, endless supplies of food in the west millions starving in the east, and finally to my point for the Western world: pleasuring ourselves into utter stupefaction to the point of wanting for nothing but a connection to something, anything, with some sort of meaning.  


The various and endless lengths we go to fill the need of the heart for gratification lead inexorably all the way through drugs, power, wealth, sex, knowledge, and all of those yielding nothing, we stumble bent and broken, weary and toiled, calling out on high to a loving creator, please Lord Jesus, save me from myself.


 There it is.  As Western Christians, bent and I hope bent, on sharing the kind of renewal we've experienced first hand through Christ Jesus, we've gotta be there with love as our overpowering message.  We have got to, got to, got to be there for our Western brothers and sisters, as they stumble from the drug scenes, whore houses, desperate relationships, bars, colleges, and reigns of failed and prosperous enterprises and institutions alike, with arms open giving incredible understanding and kindly patient love.  


The experience of turning my life over to Jesus Christ to do with what he will and his dwelling in my life, has revealed to me one very important thing regarding evangelism: If that indwelling and commitment is genuine, there is nothing I can do but want to give it away to every single person I see, know, or have heard of.  It is so powerful and wonderful to finally have the answer, I desperately want to give it to so many I see in such desperate misery.  I know how it feels today to have the power working in my life, and I still know and remember just how incredibly and unimaginably terrible it felt not to have it. 

What a desperate and tragic sight I was not so long ago my friends.  I once told my story in drug rehab years back, and by the time I was done telling the story every person in the room had tears in their eyes.  My voice, my tone, my eyes tracking the ground as I told the tragic tale stuck to their hearts and they felt great pity for such a meaningless life of consistent failure in all areas and attempts of living on Earth.  That is why I want to share Jesus Christ with the world, because without Jesus Christ in my heart, my life was the saddest story, of a Gollum who despised the very act of living through a day; that despising outlook on life only topped by his own hatred for the fact that he had ever been born.


 Yes, we must go.  Yes, we must give intellectual defenses for Christianity to the college campuses.  Yes we must give monetarily in our communities.  Yes we must plant churches.  Yes we must endure sound doctrine.  Yes we must be relevant.  Yes we must send missionaries.  Yes we must have radio stations and television programs.  Yes we must write books.  Yes we must preach sermons.


But it is my firm belief, on this continent in the West, and in Europe, we must be there when they stumble from lusts of false lorels of every kind imaginable, love tanks run dry, wanting for two things: Meaning and Love.  We must be there with an intellectual exposition of the meaning found in Christ Jesus while at the same time displaying in our actions and words the kind of love that is found in such a personal relationship as one with our Lord Jesus Christ.  


In the United States and Europe we have all manner of pleasure in front of us, almost none of it with any longevity and almost none of it containing true love.  In the United States and Europe we have all manner of information and philosophy, almost none of it containing true meaning.  This is where we must meet them.  Rarely can we halt the progression or exploration of those pleasures and philosophies, but we can be there when they have been literally run dry on false doctrine and false pleasure, to show them just where true meaning and true love are found: In a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.


 The applications?  


Pray for them as they explore pleasure and knowledge. 


Afford them infinite patience when they assault and question your faith.


Afford them kindness and compassion when they do not deserve it.


Answer their questions politely.


Tolerate their intolerable sins.


Show them a picture of Jesus Christ in how you live your life daily, and how you treat those around you.


We can do this my friends.  We will do this.  I love you.  Jesus Christ loves you.  God loves you.  The Spirit loves you.  If God loves us when we do not warrant it, we can love the unsaved when their actions make us sick, when their mannerisms make us angry, and when their pursuits mark a path to disaster.  We have a chance here in the West, in Europe and the USA, a unique chance.  I believe that chance hinges on intellectual exposition of the Gospel and an uncharacteristic amount of love and the exposition of God as the source of all love.  I firmly believe that with fervent prayer and constantly going on the offensive for our heavenly Father, we can restore Christianity in the West, and more than restore, place a stronger loving and intellectually relevant Christianity that will endure to the very end.  This is on my heart, and it will not leave me heart.  I hope it is on your heart as well, and I hope you're praying for your area of the world, and the very city you live in as much as possible.  And I hope you're going.  And if you are, for my part, thank you so very much.  Thank you, and thank you, and thank you again.  


I called on Jesus Christ with an utterly exhausted and empty love tank.  I called on Jesus Christ with no idea what meaning was anymore.  Through that indwelling, through that connection I have seen my love tank slowly (not instantly) restored, and my sense of meaning being made (not instantly made) perfect  by the communications of God through scripture matched with personal experience on a day to day basis.  They will treat us terribly, they will mock our faith, they will call us liars, they will call us intolerant, they will attack our faith, and they will even physically attack us for what we believe.  

What do we do? 


My question is: What did Jesus do?  


Jesus Christ shared his perfect message with his disciples and with numerous thousands in crowds.  What did those people do to him?  They conspired against him, rejected his message, betrayed him, and then killed him.  And as Jesus Christ hung on the cross, slowly dying, beaten and bleeding, mocked and ridiculed, forced with a crown of thorns, he prayed one last time to the Father on their behalf and said, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do."


 Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.  We are called to be exactly that picture of love.  As they mock our faith, intensely ridicule us, challenge the Bible, challenge our every statement, rewrite the rules of logic, rewrite the rules of morality, and do away with meaning all together, despite all of it, we must, must, must show them the powerful love of Jesus Christ both at work in our lives and in expression verbally.  At the same time praying to our heavenly Father and saying to him, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."   


 Thank you for reading :)