Love is silly without truth. I was once subjected to a sermon titled, “God is love.” The preacher read the text (all letters in lower case hipster font) from the screen in the post-modern darkness of a worship center filled with the most beautiful congregation I had ever worshiped with. It was church…Southern California style.
No doubt my presence was not helping the beautiful people averages, which apparently required one super model per row. Fortunately, the insouciant preacher was not helping the averages, either. He presented his sixty-year-old self in an un-tucked, faded, short-sleeved polo shirt left over from the 1980s and pulled over his paunch. His tennis shoes looked a bit newer and helped stabilize his drunken stupor style of conversational preaching. It was beauty and the beast like I had never seen it before.
I reminded myself of 1 Corinthians 1:21b that, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached (and the messenger!) to save those who believe.” Preachers are fools for Christ, but this guy was no pretender. He began reading his text on God’s love with these words from Philippians 3:2, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Who starts his sermon on “God is love” with this text? Needless to say, Stephanie and I were captivated.
The preacher talked about the world systems fooling people into performance-based salvation ideology. Schools preach performance and good behavior. Corporations preach conformity and performance pay scales. Advertising tells people what is wrong with them and sells them performance-enhancement solutions.
This preacher told the mini-skirted moms to stop pressuring their daughters into having plastic surgery, while they seek a double-appointment discount for their liposuction. He made blood sport of these beautiful people, but you could tell he loved them. Love tells the truth. They are trusting in performance in every area of their lives, and they are gaining nothing in terms of righteousness before God. The preacher told them the truth about their good works producing no favor with God…none!
Love is a bloody sacrifice. If it does not cost something, it is not love. The foolishness of the cross is an affront to most pretty people because they define love differently than God. The narcissistic pomp of self-presentation is an attempt to win worship from others. Beauty and power market themselves to allure attention they sadly misinterpret as love. Lust and coveting are not love. It is the selfish quest of me-centered gratification.
The subject and object in a worldly love affair share something in common called “need.” Because of what they share, need, they can never satisfy one another. Self never satisfies because the greatest need in the human heart is never met by natural fading endowment, nor is it met by self-achievement of any kind. Self love and selfish love are not true love.
God presents His love package to win worship from others, too. The difference with God’s love is that He does not need love nor worship from flawed creatures, who could not truly love to save their lives, anyway. He is love, and so for Him to give love is to give Himself. If God does not need love, why does He market Himself? Because it is His nature to love another with zero impact on Self!
The truth about love is that we need God’s love, and He knows it. Self-less love (the God brand) is true love that gives Himself to those in need. The only One who can give this love is the non-needy party. This is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and gave Himself for us. The only true love is Jesus Christ, for God is love. The only giver is God, and that would suggest He gets all the glory for giving, and especially for giving love…Himself.
To love God and to love your neighbor is therefore impossible. So why would God give us impossible commandments to obey like “love one another” or “love your enemies?” These commands are the Law that exposes our needy, sinful flesh all the more. We need Christ in us to give Himself to others to fulfill the Law written on our hearts. The commandments are for us to see the holiness of God, but obedience is only accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit in us (Ezek 36:27). Love is a work of God demonstrated for us to witness, so that we may worship Him for who He is…Love.
Sinful flesh gives itself only to get cheap love. God gives “every” good gift and “every” perfect gift; therefore, the only true love given is God giving Himself in the person of Christ. This is Love. Glory to God for giving His indescribable gift, His beloved Son, the One who loves us and lives in us to love others. Any other product or service, given in the name of love, by any other name than Jesus is flapdoodle. There is no other love, no other giver, and no other gift that is true. Jesus Christ…true love.
July 16, 2021