I’m a Boomer. No, I’m not talking about my preaching style. I’m talking about the generation in which I was born and raised. I grew up during a time of social upheaval when demonstrations in the streets were commonplace. It was the age of the bumper sticker. One bumper sticker that was popular in these parts was "America - Love It or Leave it". It was usually on the car of a person from the builder generation who was rightfully indignant about all those upstarts wanting to tear down everything he’d worked and fought for.
When my mother divorced in 1961, she moved us from Dallas to Ruidoso, NM, a small, conservative town separated from the rest of civilization by high mountains. So, I missed out on the civil unrest of the 60’s. My mother remarried and I can only imagine how overwhelmed my step-father was with the responsibilities of parenting an adolescent daughter and three sons aged 6-12 suddenly thrust upon him.
One of the essentials of parenting is respect. Without it there is no way parents can parent effectively. And there are only 2 ways I know of to get respect - fear or love. I love my parents, but I have to confess that I respected them more out of fear than because of love. I venture a guess that’s true of many of us here today.
If you’re a boomer raised by builders, you were likely raised in a home where love was not verbally communicated very clearly. Another name for the builder generation is The Silent Generation. They let their actions speak for them. Dad demonstrated his love for his family by bringing home the bacon. Mom demonstrated her love for her family by cooking it.
If you’re a buster who was raised by boomers, you are a member of the most aborted, abused and abandoned generation our society has ever produced. We allowed only 1/3 of you who were conceived to live. Our society as a whole didn’t communicate love for the children of the buster generation otherwise known as Generation X.
Most of us, if we respected our parents, probably did so more out of fear than because of love. Our fear may not have been a fear of punishment as much as it was a fear of withdrawal of love and acceptance. Hopefully, all of us here who can identify with what I’m saying have worked through or are working through the issues involved and currently have or are working on a relationship with our parents that is based on love.
In my experience with the church over the last 30 years, I have found that even with people who have a relationship with their parents that is based on love rather than fear, many have a relationship with God that is based on fear rather than love. Many of us in the Church serve a God who is more holy than loving. I’m not telling you that your service should be to a God who is more loving than holy. That would be unscriptural. Scripture tells us God is holy and it also tells us God is love.
Our problem is a cart-and-horse problem. We think that to have God’s love we must be holy. We have the cart before the horse. Holiness doesn’t engender love. Instead, the scriptures tell us that love engenders holiness. When the scriptures tell us that those who love God obey Him, it’s not telling us that if we love God we have to obey Him. Scripture is telling us that obedience is the natural outcome of love. It’s possible to obey God without loving Him. It’s impossible to love God without obeying Him. When we read through the Scriptures we see God constantly telling the Jews that he refuses their sacrifices because they lack love. God tells them that in all their obedience, they are really being disobedient because they lack one essential - Love. If you ever want to do an eye-opening word study, study the word Obey. You’ll find that true obedience involves more than just doing what you’re told. The Scriptures don’t tell us that our love is based on our obedience!
If that were the case, none of us could say that we truefully love God because we are all sinners. Instead obedience is based on our love.
God’s love isn’t based on our obedience. God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God isn’t an either/or God. You can’t have a God who is loving without being holy. And I personally wouldn’t want to serve a God who was holy without being loving. But, that’s too often the kind of God we serve - the kind of God served out of fear rather than served out of love. And the result is that the Body of Christ is harmed.