…love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22b (NIV)
As I press on in this life journey I have actively attempted to be a continually better lover. Jesus said that all of God’s law can be summed up in two commands:
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Love others as you love yourself.
And, so, I have endeavored to be a better lover. I realize, as I meditate on it this morning, that I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m pondering some of the things I’ve observed about love…
- If I am unwilling or unable to accept that I am lovable and receive deeply the love, grace, and forgiveness of God and others, then I will be handicapped in my capacity for love and my ability to give it away.
- To be an increasingly better lover I must embrace that it is part of my journey in this life and in this life I will never arrive at an acceptable destination. The deeper I grow in love the more fully I appreciate how utterly shallow my love is and how strong is the call to grow still deeper.
- I can’t wait for others to become lovable in my estimation before I love them. Not only is this judgmental and unloving, but others never arrive at an acceptable estimable level. I have to start with loving others without qualification and as I grow in my love-giving I receive the priceless experience of understanding how absolutely lovable they are.
- Love is sometimes soft and warm. Other times love is hard and even cold. Love can even be painful at times in both the giving and receiving. Wisdom and discernment develop as I mature as a lover for they are increasingly required to grow still deeper in love.
- I can be loving in all that I do with all whom I encounter, but mature depths of love are generally only reached through increasingly intimate depths of relationship over time. That level of mature, intimate love can only be reached with a small number of relationships, but those few mature relationships increase my capacity and ability to love far more people at a deeper levels.
- In rare cases, the most loving thing I can do is walk away.
In this morning’s chapter, Peter urges not only that we love, but that we love deeply and from the heart.
I’m still working on it (and I always will be).
God roars from Zion, shouts from Jerusalem! The thunderclap voice withers the pastures tended by shepherds, shrivels Mount Carmel’s proud peak. Amos 1:1-2 (MSG)
There is a certain balancing act required in being a good father. A soft-sided love lived out in active affection, grace, and lovingkindness is certainly necessary. But, a hard-sided love modeled by firm justice and, at times, righteous anger is equally needed. One side without the other leads to all sorts of negative consequences for everyone.
It is sometimes difficult to wrap our arms around the God of judgement characterized by the prophets like Amos. Amos reveals the hard-sided love of the Heavenly Father. As I read today’s chapter, I could almost hear dad yelling “ENOUGH!” as every child within earshot is suddenly aware that they are in big trouble.
A loving father loves his children enough to protect them at need from their own foolishness and, when appropriate, to hand out just consequences to teach his children the error of their ways. As an earthly father, I’m flawed in finding the perfect balance, but God is a perfect example to continually seek to follow.
Today, I’m thankful for an earthly father who loved me well with both the soft and hard sides of love. I’m thankful for a God who is a model to follow. I pray I can continue to find and refine the appropriate balance with my children.
"Watch now. God's Judgment Day comes. Cruel it is, a day of wrath and anger…." Isaiah 13:9a (MSG)
There are two sides to love. There is the soft side of love with warm-fuzzies, hugs, grace, and random acts of kindness. There is also a hard side of love. The hard side of love stands up for what is right, sets clear and appropriate boundaries, and ensures that justice is appropriately carried out. The hard side of love is hard because it requires tremendous strength of character to wield it, and because it appears harmful to the ignorant, casual observer. A doctor will, lovingly, injure his patient to ensure future health and wholeness. The hard side of love seems terrible, unjust, and unfair in the moment while it is utterly necessary in the context of the whole.
Let's face it. We like the idea of a safe God. Give us a God of stained-glass and angelic choruses. We like a God with babies in his arms or a gentle lamb draped over his shoulders. But the God who gathered the innocent child into his arms is the same God who made a whip and went on a violent rampage through the temple. The shepherd who gently carries the wayward sheep home must also be ruthless in killing the lion and the bear who would prey upon his flock.
A father who cares for his children must dispense both praise and punishment appropriately, and with great wisdom. Our Heavenly Father, a God of love, must also by definition be a God of judgement. Love without justice is not true love.