What’s God’s love all about? . . . It’s all about you!

Posted: August 18, 2011 in Theology, Things of Faith
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God in the person of the Son confronts Adam an...

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Recently I have been preaching a series of sermons that sets out to explore God’s love and what it’s all about. Over the next five weeks I will post summaries of this reflection. In this week’s post I will address how God’s love is directed toward human beings with a purpose.

One observation I have made over two decade’s worth of ministry is that people speak to each other in ways that express the distorted desires of their heart with an efficacy that separates the target of their words from the God who is calling them. Even as James K. A. Smith has pointed out in his text, Desiring the Kingdom, God created human beings essentially as creatures of desire. It is this desire that has been distorted and perverted from being directed toward God to becoming a self-centered and self-seeking desire. Even as Adam and Eve took the fruit with the desire to be like God and to become masters of their own destinies, such is the human predicament. One need only hear the messages that are given either explicitly or implicitly to children, young people, parents, employees, retirees, grandparents, etc. They are messages that seek to subjugate and destroy the image of the recipient. These messages can be either subtle ways of communicating a person’s inability to measure up or the harsh expressions that reject the recipient as unlovable (or unworthy of being loved). While it is easy to sit back and recognize the dysfunction in such messages and perhaps even doubt to what extent they are spoken, the reality remains that people (in a general sense) speak out of self-centered desires that either manipulate or oppress the other. Admittedly this is a dark perspective of human beings, but it is nonetheless the predicament in which we live.

If one looks through God’s metanarrative of promise, one observes the reflections of the human condition throughout. However the evident brokenness is not the end of the story. God provides the solution that can transform the desires of human beings in such ways as would change the world in which we live. Paul tells the Ephesians (1:4) that they have been blessed and chosen to be holy and blameless before God in love. M. Robert Mulholland Jr. offers an interesting exegesis of this passage, particularly regarding the word “chosen.” Citing its etymology as deriving from a compound Greek term (eklegomai) meaning “I choose,” he breaks it down further concluding that in the most literal sense it means to be “spoken forth.” Mulholland uses this understanding to posit that believers are words (with a small “w”) spoken forth from the foundation of the world by God.[1] These words spoken forth were meant to be holy and blameless before God in love. God reinforces the shape of these “words” with expressions of his love that determine the immeasurable value God has for each human being.

Unfortunately human beings have a remarkable propensity of being able to distort these words through contrary messages that serve to place the self in a position of primacy. Therefore it falls upon the disciples of Jesus to counter these destructive messages with the gospel of God’s reconciling love. What this ultimately does directs the desires back toward God that the person might experience the reconciled relationship with the Divine. It is only when people begin to re-imagine themselves as God has spoken them forth to be that the person’s desires are appropriately redirected toward God. This however is not a completed process, but a journey of transformation.

Two issues are problematic in this. First, often times it is in the place we call “church” that the most harmful words are spoken. Perhaps the church is perceived to be a family to such an extent that it reflects the dysfunctional behaviors of the households of which it consists. As such it is ever more evident that believers need to be reminded of God’s words for them so that they may embody more fully the “words” they are being called forth to be.

Second is that if the messages we speak betray the trajectory of our desires, is it not this target of our desire that which we worship? What follows then is the question of idolatry. If at base our desire is for self, then it is the self that we in essence worship. Thus it is necessary for the base human desire to be put right so that appropriate worship might take place (which is a fundamental aspect of being human). Ultimately it is God speaking forth the “Word” that makes this possible. I suppose I could have saved some space if I merely said “God loves you so much and wants to be in whole and proper relationship with you that he has made it possible (if only we allow it).”

[1] M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Shaped by the Word, revised edition. (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2000), 34ff.

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