Tag Archives: love

I wanna know what love is

Yes, I know. A ridiculous song, and an even worse pick-up line.

That was my work-out music this morning, and then – because, you know, Valentine’s – Susan and I listened to my new Ed Sheeran album.

In one of his songs, he says something like “I can’t love you unless I love me first” or some such thing.

Whatever it was, it was the same sentiment as “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all” which plagued the airwaves in the late 80’s. I am not sure if it was more offensive philosophically or aesthetically, but that is neither here nor there.

It goes back to 1 John.

I just finished preaching through 1 John. You can’t preach through 1 John without meditating on the nature and definitions of love. I like precision, and as a minister I believe we need to be precise in our words. I strive for precision, not sound-bites. So I think about words.

John tells us that “God is love.” Love is an essential attribute of God. God cannot be divested of love any more than God can be divested of Godhead. God’s attributes and his essence are identical, to put it into theological terms.

If you would like to learn more about this (and I think you should) I would recommend this excellent book by James Dolezal.

This means that there was never a time when God didn’t know what love was, for God is love, and God’s knowledge of himself is perfect.

Which leads to the next question – if God is love, and this is identical to his nature, then whom did God love before he created the heavens and the earth. We, of course, do not believe that creation is eternal. There was a time before creation where there was only God – before time and space and angels and men. God is the eternal I AM.

So whom did he love before he created? Love must involve a lover and a loved. There must be more than on person in order for there to be love. So whom did God love? The answer lies in the Trinity.

Jesus prayed,  “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

So here is where my mind is going after Ed Sheeran and Whitney Houston: is self-love possible? By the very nature of love, the subject must reach out to an object outside of itself. To say that one must love oneself is to say that one must somehow divide into knower and known, subject and object, lover and loved, and turn love back on itself. Is love simply dissociation made into a virtue?

I think we must be precise in our language. Love, by it’s very definition, needs a lover and a loved. Two parties, at a minimum. Narcissus staring at himself at the pool is a mental disorder, not love. He has divided himself into subject and reflection, and has become an object of pity rather than a healthy human in God’s image.

In the words of Dylan – “He worships at the altar of a stagnant pool and when he sees his own reflection he’s fulfilled.”

So what should we call it? Dylan’s image certainly wouldn’t make a good valentine’s card. I don’t think “love” is the right word. It is a mental disorder, not love.

I think I know what they are getting at when they say, “love yourself”. But I would ask for more precision. I think that the world has enough narcissism. But at the same time, a person filled with shame and self-loathing is stuck unable to reach out of themselves to fully love another being.

So there is some truth to saying, “Love yourself”, it is just that the language is wrong.

How did Jesus put it:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
(Matt 22:36-40)

And there, I think, is the key. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. But, it might be asked, how does one do that without first becoming a narcissist?

The answer, I believe, is in the first commandment. Love God.

If you love God, you also recognize and acknowledge the good gifts that God has given you. You refuse to despise and loathe your body, for God made it. You don’t reject the abilities God has given you, but understand that you have many good gifts given to you by your good Father in heaven.

You also know that Jesus came into the world to bear your sin and shame, so that is taken away and you have been born again. You are no longer the “worst sinner you know” but a child of the king, cleansed, sanctified, and in the process of being conformed to the image of God’s son.

This means that you are in the process of becoming more and more beautiful. You are chosen by God, loved by God, given every good gift by God.

So perhaps instead of saying “love yourself”, you should say, “loved by God.”

We love him because he first loved us, after all.

What this does is nip arrogance in the bud, condemn narcissism, and lifts our head above our own reflection to see that there is a whole other world besides the one in our head. There are people out there who need your kindness and love. There are people who need the glass of cold water from your hand and the meal from your larder. There are empty seats at your table. And you can only fill those seats in your heart when you look up and see the beauty and goodness and bounty of our loving God.

Correct perspective also nips shame in the bud. Forgiveness wipes the record clean and the new garments of Christ’s righteousness are made perfectly for you. A bespoke suit.

You are dressed for reception in the halls of the great king, who loves you and gave himself for you.

Isn’t this far, far better than “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

I apologize for getting Foreigner stuck in your head.

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The Death of Death

4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.
6 Now when He said to them, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
(John 18:4-6)

Jesus had just spent an agonizing night in Gethsemane. It isn’t just that he knows that he is about to be beaten to a bloody pulp and nailed to a cross to die. It isn’t just that he knows that he is despised and rejected of men. It isn’t just that he knows he is about to be numbered among criminals and reduced to a slave.

It is that he knows that he will bear the sins of the world. He knows that it is the Father’s will that he take the infinite blackness and ugliness and hatred of sin upon himself and be forsaken by God. He will experience in his soul the pains and torments of hell, the forsakenness, the pain, the immense suffering of the wrath of God. He who was righteous was made sin for us. And he willingly bore it.

He knows that God’s wrath against sin is infinite, fixed, unchanging. And he is about to bear the full brunt of it. God will consider Jesus to be worst than the worst. Jesus will take the full weight of God’s wrath against idolatry, murder, blasphemy, rape, torture, adultery, cruelty, oppression, slander, wicked speech and wicked actions, and drink the cup to the very bottom.

And the soldiers come to arrest him.

Jesus says, “Whom do you seek?”

They say, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

He says, “I am”. The same answer the God gave Moses when Moses asked his name. The same name that God gave to his covenant people. The name above every name, the name that the Jews considered so holy that they wouldn’t pronounce it. “I am”.

And then the divine majesty of God shines through the form of the servant. This weak, tired man…Jesus of Nazareth…speaks “I am” and the ray of uncreated light breaks through the dark night and the soldiers fall flat on their faces. This is the majesty of God revealed.

This is not what it seems. It seems as if Satan has won. It seems as if Jesus is about to lose control of everything. It seems as if there are events that are taking place that will carry Jesus along like a tidal wave and end up with his death. It seems as if Judas, the soldiers, the Jews, and the Romans are in charge and Jesus is about to be eliminated.

But then Jesus says, “I am” and God’s majesty shines forth. The Word was made flesh, and for a moment that flesh was pulled back and a tiny glimpse of the infinite beauty, majesty and power of almighty God was revealed.

“And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.”

And with one word, the soldiers could not even stand in His presence.

Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For us and for our salvation he became flesh for this very reason – to drink the cup of God’s wrath to the very bottom – so that we might be called the children of the living God. This is why it is not fitting to pity him. He was not an unwilling victim. Instead, we worship and adore, we bow before him in wonder. We fall to our faces in astonished silence and then cry, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to him forever and ever!”

This is the great exchange – his righteousness is mine. My sin is his. And he bore it away, he drank the cup wrath to the bottom. The majesty of God is seen in the suffering of Gethsemane, the cross of Jesus, the empty tomb.

The majesty of God is revealed in the death of death on the cross of Christ. It was not the soldiers in charge that day. At any moment, Jesus could have put an end to all of it.

The human tendency to flinch at a whip was overridden by the majesty of God and the infinite love of Jesus. He willingly bore every stroke, every nail, every spit, every mocking word. He hung on the cross while the sun refused to give its light and bore God’s wrath. In the darkness, God hid from our eyes his judgment against sin for we could not have borne to even see it. But Jesus bore it.

Every splinter, every thorn, every drop of the wrath of God.

The majesty of God, the infinite beauty of God, the infinite holiness and justice of God, and his infinite love came together that day. Find it there, or not at all.

“Amazing love, how can it be? That thou my God shouldst die for me?”

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Does God Like Me?

8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (Jam 3:8-9)

How many of us have been attacked by the tongue? How many live at home with a reviler and are subjected to the lash of ugly words?

You’re fat.

You’re stupid.

No one even likes you.

You are worthless.

If it wasn’t for me, no one would even tolerate you.

There are millions who were raised by cruel and harsh men and women who have never known a kind word; who have never known what it is to be accepted or loved.

And there are also millions who scoff and say, “It’s only words. I just get angry sometimes…” To you, I have just one thing to say: Please read carefully Matthew 5:22 and meditate on how you use words. You are in danger of hell. If you have ever called one of God’s children ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, unlovable – who shall deliver you from the wrath to come? It is a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Your words do not come from God. They are lit on fire from hell.

These are not the words that we have learned from Christ Jesus. He taught us to use words of truth and grace, seasoned with salt, edifying to the hearer.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph 4:29)

There are so many ways to tear people down with words. One of the most insidious is to never revile out loud, but just simply let your victim know that they really aren’t very likeable. Perhaps they are weird. Perhaps they do things differently. Perhaps they think a little…not like you. This is the classic passive-aggressive bully. God hates it.

This one is close to my heart, because I am…let’s face it…weird. I cannot small talk for anything. I have no idea what is going on in any sporting event. I say weird things at weird times. I don’t have a clue what “guys do”.  At my bachelor party, two of my friends picked me up from work and said, “This is YOUR NIGHT. You can do whatever you want!” I sat on their couch and stared at them for two hours until they let me go home.

I’m weird. There is no situation where I am not awkward, no conversation that I can’t stop by saying something very weird.

And most of my life, I was absolutely convinced that most people would be far happier if I just went home. So I usually did.

It occurred to me the other day that I have a hard time believing that anyone likes me. And then it occurred to me that I carry this belief to God himself. Does God actually like me?

It is an interesting question. I think that question is particularly difficult for those who have been attacked with the tongue. How can anyone like me? Does God like me? Does it matter?

It isn’t the same as “Does God love me”. We know that God does love us. He loves us with perfect, infinite, unchanging love in Jesus Christ, his beloved Son. We also know that nothing separates us from his love.

But does he like me?

I’ve heard of parents who say to their kids, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much.”

I’ve heard husbands say that about their wives. “I love her, but I sure don’t like her at times.”

And our greatest fear is that God just barely tolerates us. He loves us in Christ, but really just wishes we would go away. Can you think of anything more shameful than hearing God say, “I love you, but I sure don’t like you much.”

Do you see what I am getting at? I’m trying to make the doctrine of God’s love practical, and looking at what it actually means. What does it mean to love someone that you don’t really like? I guess I just don’t get that.

Does God think I’m weird? Does he think that church would be better if I didn’t show up? Does he roll his eyes and sigh when I cry out to him yet again?

Yes,  I know that God hates sin and calls me to repent. I also know that he has cleansed me from sin. I know that he does not tolerate sin. I’m not talking about sin. I’m talking about the fact that I really like colored socks and don’t know what to say to strangers I’ve just met. I’m talking about the kind of clothes that I wear and the kind of music I like. I wear waistcoats and hats and say weird things.

Does God like me? I am not speaking about the independence of God. I know that God does not need his creatures, including me, for anything. I do not add to his blessedness, for in him are all the perfections of holiness. I add nothing to God. I get that.

But does God like me?

Here’s why I believe this question is important. We were created to be social, in fellowship. We were created to be loved and have friends, to walk with God, to speak with him in the cool of the day. We were created to live in harmony with one another. We were created to be accepted and to love and be loved and to belong. To know and to be known.

And we still have that memory of Eden. We still have the need to belong. My heart still cries out to belong, to fit in, to be acceptable. The human heart cannot abide being outcast. No one can live thinking that everyone wishes they would go away, that everyone just thinks they are stupid, fat, smelly, ugly and weird. We cannot live thinking that we are totally unacceptable. This is the insidious nature of abuse. It tears down and destroys what the heart longs for the most. The words of a spouse can hurt and destroy and kill far more than any weapon imaginable. To be unacceptable, banished from love, and undesirable is intolerable to an image-bearer of God.

So the question is very important. Does God like me?

If God does not like me, then I must seek acceptance elsewhere. The stupidest, most shameful things I have ever done I did to try to be accepted. I sought the approval of men, and failed all the way around. I still blush when I think of it.

But if I do not seek the approval of men, whose approval do I seek, if God does not like me?

Do you see what I am getting at?

What do I do to be accepted? I am loved because of Jesus Christ, but does God accept me? Does God like me? Do I need to wear more acceptable, “god-like” clothing? Use more Christian-like phrases? Do I need to change my personality to something more acceptable to God?

Once again, I am not talking about sin. I know I need to confess and flee from sin. I am asking what I need to do for God to like me. Does God like me? Am I likeable?

And when I asked that question, scripture after scripture after scripture came to my mind and I felt free at last.

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:5-6)

God chose ME because he wanted to, and he made me accepted in the beloved. God DOES like me, and I am accepted by him!

As for my body and my face,

14 I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written… (Psalm 139:14-16)

He put together my frame, my form, my face. He gave me my hair and my eyes. he gave me this belly and these feet. He doesn’t think of me as defiled, ugly, unclean, untouchable, for he made me. He gave me these parts, and behold they are very good.

Get thee behind me, Satan! God gave me this face and said it was very good! How dare you insult the frame that God gave to me! I’m not dirty and untouchable and unlovable!

As for my gifts and personalities,

18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body. (1Cor. 12:18-20)

(Read the whole chapter!) See how God has chosen ME and has given me the gifts that he gave me. He gave me those gifts on purpose. He knew what he was doing. He gave me my weird personality, he gave me my strange quirks. In fact, it is because I am different that I am valuable to the body of Christ, according to this text. If we were all an eye, who would do the hearing?

Look around your church, look at your fellow believers. God gave each of them their gifts, their looks, their abilities, their perspectives, their cultural and social background. And he did it ON PURPOSE.

It is his good pleasure to give you all the kingdom.

Does God like us?

17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zeph. 3:17)

And here,

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psa 100:3)

Our God, thrice holy, infinite and almighty, the creator and sustainer of the earth made ME, and made me on purpose. He gave me my personality, my background, my gifts. he gave me the body that I have, and even the flaws are counted – like how many hairs fall.

And he said it was very good. He redeemed me in Christ, and calls me to put off the old man with the fears and the doubts. He told me not to be a man-pleaser, but to seek to please him.

Because of the work of the Lord Jesus, and because I belong to him by faith, I am accepted by God. And because I am loved, God has given me his spirit, and given me gifts.

And when I am kind, when I use my gifts to his glory, when I rest in him, when I trust in him, when I cry out to him, he accepts me. He delights in ME.

ME!

I am not just barely tolerated by God, but accepted in the beloved. He loves ME, and, yes, if I may say so, he likes me.

And so let’s all put aside our doubts and our fears and run this race together, shall we? Let’s quit trying to lift ourselves up by tearing one another down. Let’s quit trying to one-up each other, bragging and boasting about our accomplishments. Let’s quit worrying about whether anyone else likes us or not. If God is for us, who can possibly be against us?

Be kind, courageous and faithful, for your God is with you!

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Filed under Gospel, Hope, Love, Words

His Banner Over Me

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Sol 2:4 KJV)

Here’s an astounding thought. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. We are all his workmanship, and he can do with us as he pleases. He has every right to command, to exact obedience and even to kill and destroy. He is a just God. He is a holy God. He cannot dwell with sin. He hates the wicked with eternal, unquenchable fire. And we are all sinners.

But it is God’s will to be merciful. He longs to restore fellowship with his people. But in order for God to restore relationship with His people, his people must put away their evil deeds and obey. They must be cleansed from their sins. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and he calls all of us to obey, to submit, to “circumcise the foreskins of our hearts and no longer be stiff-necked.”

But here is the problem. God’s law requires us to love him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls and with all of our minds. And the relationship between God as a holy lawgiver and his people as sinners is not a relationship that is conducive to love. The more we try to appease a holy God by external law-keeping, the more we invoke his wrath. For he is beautiful and good. He alone is worthy of love and he desires that his creatures love him. Anything less is an affront to him, and he is just and holy.

In the Old Covenant, God loved his people and exercised his holy right to command and expect obedience. His people broke his covenant, even though his banner was over them. They bore his mark; they were his people. they were circumcised, and to them were committed the oracles of God. But they broke his covenant and rebelled against them, even though he was their master and husband.

He cast them away, and he was just and good to do just that. But God promised them a new covenant. In the new covenant, God said,

And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. (Hos 2:16 KJV)

The King James wisely just left these two words untranslated, because the English doesn’t quite have words to capture them. Both words can mean “my husband”.  But Baali is “husband” in a legal sense. The head of the home, the boss.  This was God’s relationship to the Old Covenant people. He indeed loved them, but was their commander and master. God said that the new covenant would not be like the old:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: (Jer 31:32 KJV)

Here the word for “husband” is also Baal. A legal husband – one with the rights of the husband under the old covenant.

But Hosea said the new covenant would not be like that. Instead, God would be “ishi.” Ishi means “my husband”, but the first time we see the word “ish” is used is in the institution of marriage in the garden of Eden:

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Gen 2:23 KJV)

`Ish here has the meaning of “man”; and it is contrasted with `ishshah (woman). It emphasized NOT the legal and headship/submission aspect of marriage, but the aspect of lovers becoming one flesh.

God would become “one flesh”, a lover, to His people, and this would mark the difference between the old covenant and the new.

Eternal, almighty God, who dwells between the cherubim, who commands the earth and the sun and the stars in their orbits, who tears down rulers and sets up rulers, who so governs the earth that all the nations are as grasshoppers in his sight – this God – became flesh in the womb of Mary so that we would no longer know him as Baali, but as Ishi.

His banner over me is love. The law could only make slaves. But the gospel makes lovers. He unites us to himself by his Holy Spirit so that we are truly flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, as Paul writes,

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:30-32 KJV)

A banner is a standard, a flag marking the nation or tribe to whom one belongs. We bear the mark of our Lord Jesus and that mark is the mark of his love. His banner over us is love. He loved us, and gave himself for us. He loved us and washed our feet.

He had every right to command us and to expect obedience. He could justly have committed each one of us to hell forever and ever and would not have diminished his love or his goodness one bit to have done so.

And yet he chose, in his infinite love, to put his mark of love on us. What the law could never do, God did, by sending his only begotten Son to bear the sins of many.

The law could never change a heart. You can lock a murderer up and keep him from committing another murder if you have a strong enough cell, but locking the murderer up can never change a heart.

And God desires hearts that love him, not serve him out of slavish fear.

And, you husbands, this is what Christ requires of you. Your example is Christ. Your banner over your home is to be a banner of love. This is how the gospel of Christ is shown in your home. Not by your “right to command and expect obedience”, but by your responsibility to love, as Christ loved the church. And, no, these aren’t the same things.

I always puzzled over why a man would want a wife’s slavish obedience rather than her freely given love. Perhaps because of the blindness of sin. Whenever I write on marriage, someone will always say,

“But doesn’t a husband have the right to command his wife?”

Is that how Christ treats us? Commands never create hearts of love, and God desires hearts that serve him out of love. For this reason, he became our man, our lover, our friend. His banner over us is love. Christ does indeed have the right as our creator to command us. He is the king of kings. But it is not kingship that we are commanded to exercise in the home, but love. Love has power that nothing else has – it was the love of God that changed the world, and this is what we are to show in our homes.

This should mark our homes. We should have homes where those outside say of us, “That guy really loves his wife!”

If you do not know this kind of love, I would urge you to come to Christ and be reconciled to God. Come to the one who so loved the world that he laid down his life for his sheep. Come to him in repentance and faith. Learn at the foot of the cross what love truly is. You cannot truly love anyone else until you learn to submit yourself to the love of Christ. So come and learn. His yoke is easy; his burden is light.

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God’s grace an excuse for cruelty??

A pastor’s primary function is to preach and teach God’s word to the sheep that Jesus has placed in his care.  In order to do this effectively, he must be a lover of language. He must become a master of communication.  Not, indeed, the language of the world wielded by the manipulators of rhetoric, but as a steward of the treasure that God has placed in his care.  The ungodly man uses language to manipulate people, to get people to act in a way that he wishes them to act.  As Christians, however, we must learn how to use language in order to convey truth clearly and effectively.  But unfortunately, pastors frequently become manipulators of people instead of preachers of truth.

To be a God-pleasing preacher of truth, a pastor must understand two things:

First, he must understand what God teaches in His word.  Good seminaries drill this into the heads of their students with original language classes, systematics, apologetics, Old and New Testament survey classes, exegesis classes, and other offerings.

But unfortunately this is not enough.  A man may be an expert in the meaning and theology of the scripture and be completely unable to communicate that effectively, for he has not yet understood the English language.  Through poor choices of words, truth is skewered and equity is fallen in the streets.

So the second thing that a pastor must understand in order to communicate God’s word effectively is how the English language works and how to put the truth of God’s word into accurate language to be understood clearly by his audience.  The goal in communicating truth is to speak in such a way that the ideas in the speaker’s head are transferred to the mind of the hearer with as little loss as possible.  We may think that we are communicating one thing, when in fact our hearers hear something else entirely.  If pastors do not understand this, their work will be ineffective at best and outright harmful to the soul at worst.

A word in any language may have different nuances or even different meanings altogether depending upon the context of the word.

Take the word “love”.  I saw a car with two bumper stickers.  One said, “I love my Golden Retriever.” The other said, “I love Jesus.”    Same car; same bumper.

What the owner of the car was attempting to communicate was lost to me.  Two abstract thoughts, one referring to the affection that a man feels for his dog, and the other a religious affection for our Lord and Savior, were both denotated by the same word: “love”.  Two thoughts.  One word.

At the very least, I would hope that in the mind of the car owner these were two separate ideas.  But perhaps he meant that his love for his dog was exactly identical (univocal) to the love that he has for Jesus, in which case we would have to charge him with polytheism, in the same way that you would charge a man with bestiality for loving his dog and loving his wife univocally.

For those who may think that I am splitting hairs, or using ridiculous examples, I would like to remind you that we are currently inundated with predators and pedophiles who use the same techniques to cover their horrendous and vile actions.  I take great offence at the North American Man/Boy Love
Association for using the word “love” to describe their filthy lusts, hoping that our refusal to analyze language will give them a pass.  But do not be deceived.  What they mean by “love” and what I mean by “love” are two different things entirely.

A recent blog, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism  commits a similar error, with similar deadly consequences for the truth of the Gospel.

You can find some excellent refutations here.

I have much to say.  But I will limit my comments to only one question of this catechism:

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Here the writer makes a deadly error.  Here we see the error of using a word with several different meanings as if it only had one meaning.  Let me illustrate:

What he is saying in effect is this:  Because I deserve eternal punishment in hell for my sins, it follows that I deserve to take whatever injustice and abuse that my husband wishes to dish out to me.

But does this follow, or is it possible that the English word “deserve” has different meanings depending on the context?

In Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, Hamlet the Prince asks Polonius to take the newly arrived actors to their accommodations and make sure they had what they needed for their comfort.  Polonius replied, “I will treat them according to their desert.”

Hamlet replied, “God’s bodkin, man, much better!  Treat every man according to his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”

Hamlet has made the same error.  Polonius was merely speaking of giving them the accommodations and amenities that their station and their labors warranted.  Hamlet then replied, swearing by the bodkin, or dagger, of God, referring to their standing as sinners before the Throne of God. But the desert of the actors at the hands of Polonius and the desert of the actors at the hands of God are two different things!

Are we to believe that since no one has ever earned any favor from God whatsoever, but has received every good thing by grace alone that it would therefore follow that my boss can withhold my paycheck from me, since I deserve far worse?

If the blogger in question would be consistent with his univocal use of the word “deserve”, we would expect the following exchange:  “My employer has robbed me of my wages.  What should I do?”

Answer, “Rejoice that you have received far more than you deserve and continue to work for him with a meek and quiet spirit.  Don’t make a fuss.”

Take it one step further:  “My family was slaughtered by a wicked man.”

Answer: “It was better than they deserved.  Let it go, and don’t make a fuss.  No need to involve the police.”

It is indeed true that God’s mercy can never be earned – or deserved.  We increase our guilt daily before God.  We are fallen sinners.  Unless we are born again, we deserve nothing but eternal wrath and damnation.  This is taught clearly throughout Scripture.

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV)  8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

But this is speaking of our standing before the Judgment Throne of God.  It does not follow that we therefore deserve to be treated with cruelty, hatred and dishonor by wicked men.

If the grace of God can be used to justify injustice and cruelty, then words no longer have any meaning.

From the hand of God we always and continually receive far more that we can ever merit or “deserve”, for even the best works in this life are all polluted by sin.

Does it then follow that we do not deserve kindness, love, respect and honor from our fellow man?  Not according to the Bible.

Consider the following passage:

(Rom 13:7-8 KJV)  7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

God teaches here that there are those who deserve our taxes, our honor, and our tribute.  But then in verse 8, he carries the argument further:  We owe all men love.  Not the love of the world, but love defined by the law of God.

For a husband, we owe our wives the same love with which Christ loved his church.  Does she earn it?  Of course not.  But does she deserve it?  She certainly does.

In another place, Paul teaches that husbands and wives are both owed benevolence – they deserve it because they are husband and wife:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

If it were not possible to treat our wives worse than they deserve, as this blog implies, then it would not be possible to defraud your wife, and Paul’s command would make no sense (1 Cor. 7:5).  Paul’s argument depends upon the Biblical truth that a husband owes his wife benevolence (favor, good-will, sexual intimacy).  To put it passively, she deserves it because she is his wife.  To withhold those things is to defraud her – or to treat her less than she deserves – directly contrary to the statement made by this blogger.

To the beloved daughters of God, do not allow your husband to treat you less than you deserve as his wife.  On the same token, do not treat your husband less than he deserves as your husband.  God requires equity in our dealings, not fuzzy appeals to misunderstood grace.

Equity means that we treat others fairly, or as they deserve.  Fulfill those obligations and remember that you have a right to expect the same in all of your relationships.  This is what a covenant of marriage is.  We are in a covenant and there are covenant obligations.  A husband owes his wife the fulfillment of his vows, and she deserves that fulfillment, because she is his wife.

If I make a contract, the other party deserves for me to fulfill my end.  Why is marriage any different?

Let us exegete scripture correctly, lest we become prey for the devil, and expose ourselves to the abuses of wicked men.

To affirm the covenant of marriage is to affirm the obligations of that covenant.  The husband deserves for the wife to fulfill her vow, and the wife deserves for the husband to fulfill his vow.  Neither party deserves to be treated with abuse, cruelty, violence and hatred.

The Bible also teaches that a husband or a wife can behave in such a monstrous way that they ultimately forfeit the benefits of this covenant, but that is another post for another time.

I have much more to say, but I have wearied the reader enough for the day.

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To the one about to marry my daughter

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;(Eph 5:25 KJG)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7 KJG)

There is a growing problem among young men today.  Pornography is so available that a large majority of men are not able to love a real woman, even physically. A young woman is simply an object, whose sole purpose of existing is to cater to a man’s whims and moods. A real woman is to be understood and loved, and this is too much to ask for today’s young man.

It is easier to drop out of reality, turn on the screen and love a fantasy, which is simply another word for loving yourself.

This is not love.

Men have become perpetual children, demanding and petulant.  A woman is seen as an impersonal collection of various body parts, designed to be used until she has no more to give – and then discarded.

A child demands sex; a man longs for intimacy. A child refuses to give anything; a man gives his heart.

So the streets and the clubs and the bars are filled with children, demanding satisfaction, searching for their next toy to use and destroy.

Some young men seek marriage, but are unwilling to give their heart.  They play with a woman’s heart until they “find the right one” and then they inadvertently “fall in love” – Cupid’s next victims.  But a victim of Cupid is a victim, not a man.  He was not man enough to choose a wife; he was not man enough to love the one he chose.  He simply allowed the currents of desire to carry him this way and that. He falls in love.  He falls out of love.  He leaves behind him the wreckage of broken and hurting young women who were naïve enough to believe him when he said, “I love you”.

This also is not love.

 

The question that I have for you is this: Are you man enough to love a woman?

Are you man enough to love your wife as Christ loved the church?

Are you man enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child?

Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation?

Would you rather die yourself than do the least thing to damage the soul of the one you love?

Are you strong enough to ask forgiveness? Courageous enough to call her lovingly to repentance?

Are you bold enough to reconcile?

Are you man enough to turn off the television and listen to her?

Do you understand her fears, her desires, her longings? Do you have the courage to hear her?

Do you have the courage to open up your heart to her?

Do you have the courage to talk to her about your fears, your desires and your longings?

Do you have the courage to admit that it is not good for you to be alone?

 

A child desires a mother.  A man seeks a wife.

A mother is a tremendous blessing for a child.  She nurtures, feeds, cleans, bathes and provides for the child’s every need.

But a mother is not a wife.

Are you man enough to leave your mother and your father and cleave to your wife?

It is a great calling – but most are not strong enough, courageous enough or man enough to take a wife.

It is easier to turn on the computer and fantasize about pixels of ink, rather than love a woman, so most choose the fantasy.

They do not know that it is for their life.

 

But a woman wants a man.

A man is strong enough to give himself for his wife. He demands nothing; gives everything.

He is man enough to make her place in his heart safe; he is man enough to win her heart and trustworthy enough to keep it.

He is courageous enough to hear the question “What are you thinking?” and actually understand it and answer it.

He is courageous enough to hold her in his arms and wipe away her tears.

He is man enough to see when she is at her end, and cook a meal, do the dishes, watch the kids, clean the house and still have enough left to hold her and pray for her and know the right things to say.

He is man enough to at least try to understand her, without resentment, bitterness, impatience or rage. If he is a man, the understanding will come in time.

He is man enough to forsake all others and cleave unto his wife.

He doesn’t whine and complain when there is dust on the windowsill or dinner is late – these are the actions of a child, not a man.

He has nothing to prove; he will not hide behind a façade of bluster and words; he never has to be the “man of the house” nor the “king of the castle”.

He is strong enough to take the lowest place; be the servant of all; wash the dirty feet himself.

For he is man enough to know that being a leader doesn’t mean being the boss.

A child tells everyone what to do.  A man leads the way by being the servant of all.

 

A man is strong enough to set his wife as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm:

For a man knows that love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. (Sol 8:6)

A man is strong enough to keep the flame going; bold enough to never play with a woman’s heart; courageous enough to never use a woman as a toy to be discarded at whim.

A man is one who trusts the Lord with his whole heart. He therefore does not seek proof of his manhood on the earth, for it is safe with his Lord.

The man who trusts the Lord is ready for a wife; for a man who trusts the Lord has nothing to prove to anyone.

Only then he is ready to love a woman.

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June 5, 2014 · 2:24 am

What the husband of a chronically ill wife wants her to know.

My dear wife recently sent me a list of three things that a chronically ill person wants her loved ones to know.  You can access that article here

It is very well done, and puts to words all that you are feeling.

My darling, I know.  I’ve heard you.  I understand.

I also want you to know that there are three things that a husband of a chronically ill wife wants her to know:

  1. I want you to know that your value to me is not connected to how many chores you can accomplish.

I don’t love you because you do stuff.  I don’t value you because of your efficient shopping and laundry skills.  I know you have them; I brag about them.  I know that you long with your whole heart to be healthy enough to do chores; and I admire you for that.

But I don’t love you for what you do; I love you because of who you are.  I love you because God has joined us together and my life would be black and white without you in it.  I love you because you are a daughter of God and with your whole life you point me to the beautiful Savior.  I love you because we have something quite special: in our union we picture Christ and the church!  In our relationship, we are something far greater than simply two people who share chores.  We are one flesh, linked together by covenant as Christ is forever united to His church.

I love you because you are my half of the orange; my flesh and my bones.  When you hurt, I hurt.  When you grieve, I grieve with you.

When all you can do is reach out when we are sitting together and touch my hand, the universe moves.  It may seem small, but worlds pass between us.  You aren’t a maid, a laundress, a schoolmarm – you are my wife.  Your touch moves my world.

  1. I want you to know that life consists of more than activity.

I don’t dream of the next party, the next activity, the next thing.  All of that is nothing if you are not there.  My life is already full of too much activity.  What I dream of is simply sitting with you; talking, watching, praying, thinking.

My life is not full because I do a lot of stuff.  I know that you apologize for not being able to be there, but I’d rather bring a meal to you in your chair than dine without you in the banquet hall of the great ones.

I want you to know that when you are here, I’m not missing out on anything.  You may feel useless and a drain on us all, but you have no idea how much we all lean on you.  You are our stability, our home, our comfort.

  1. I want you to know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I say this – even though I grieve with you; even though I pray and long for your health and strength; even though I do get weary and overwhelmed sometimes.  But what it all comes down to is this: When I vowed “in sickness and in health” I wasn’t just saying words.  I know that health and sickness only come from the hand of God, and that He is good.

I know that all things must work together for our salvation.  I know that He has linked my life to yours, and we are in this together.  We will grieve together; we will pray together.  And if you NEVER recover strength, we will lean on our God together.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s you and me.  I’m with you.  That’s where I belong.  Let’s do this thing together.

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised” (Sol 8:6-7 NKJ).

 

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Please don’t love on me.

There’s a disturbing new trend in churches.  I see it frequently.

I know that many have no respect for the English language, and perhaps use this phrase without thinking about it.  But I would like for you to think about it.

While you are thinking about it, I beg you – please don’t “love on me”.  I know that your pastor has perhaps told you that “we just want to love on ya!”  But I beg you to stop.
Treat me with kindness.  Listen to me.  Don’t gossip or slander me.  But please don’t love on me.

Respect my family.  Say a kind word.  Listen to me; I will listen to you.

Don’t jump to conclusions about me; don’t be quick to speak or hear of evil about me.  But please don’t love on me.
Don’t join in condemning me; don’t hate me and speak all matter of evil against me falsely.  Don’t lie about me.  Tell me the truth.  But please don’t love on me.
Bear with me; tell me if I’ve offended you and give me an opportunity to reconcile.  Untangle me from sins that you may see me tangled in.  Point me to Christ.
Be kind to my children.  Pray for us. Smile at me; I am smiling back.
But please don’t love on me.

The problem is that pesky preposition “on”.  Someone thought it was folksy and clever, and it has spread like a virus.  But it spoils everything.  It makes love an act of aggression with me as the victim and you as the perpetrator.
It also takes away from a very beautiful concept.
Love is a powerful word filled with powerful content.

God loved us and gave us His only begotten son.
Love one another, even as Christ loved His church.  Jesus washes us with His blood; cleanses us with His Spirit, releases us from bondage; defeated death and sin and misery on the cross – because He loved us.  He has sent His spirit to work love in our hearts – love for God and for our neighbor.

Loving ON someone, however, is an entirely different concept.  If what you mean is what the Bible means by love – then please just say “love” and leave it at that.  Better yet, just show your love by your works.  Love is a bit like fame.  If you have to tell someone you are, then you aren’t.  Love, like fame, is easy to spot and doesn’t need to be announced.
I don’t even know what “loving on you” means.  But I tend to think that if I catch you loving on my wife, I might react strongly against it.  If I find you loving on my kids, I may just call the police.
Please don’t make me a victim of your love.  That somewhat defeats the purpose, does it not?

 

 

 

 

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