Summary: In this message, part 2 in series Love Without Limits, Dave talks about the love of God and looks at our difficulty in accepting that love in the present moment.
Love In This Moment
Love Without Limits, prt. 2
Wildwind Community Church
January 10, 2010
1 Chronicles 16:34 (TNIV)
34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
1 John 4:10 (TNIV)
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us...
Some of you know that several weeks ago I went away for three days of silent prayer at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. You are assigned a spiritual director when you get there -- someone who can help you listen to God -- and my spiritual director said, "What do you want to have happen while you are here?" I said, "I want to know God loves me always, and get out of this pattern I have of separating myself from him."
I know from years of pastoring that there are a lot of pastors that are that way. And if there are a lot of pastors that are that way, you know that a lot of people in our churches are that way. I see it all the time. Some hurting Christian couple comes in to see me and I say, "Where is God in all of this," and they look at me like I've just spoken Hebrew to them. They are church people. They go to church together and maybe small group together. Maybe they are members of their church. They each want God in their life, yet their daily interactions are often without love, characterized by things like coldness, irritability, lack of respect, jealousy, competition, suspicion of each other's motives, rudeness, insensitivity, manipulation, stubbornness, defensiveness, hostility, and childishness. Where is God in those ways of interacting? The truth is that we cannot act in these ways when we are rooted in the love of God. When we are rooted in love then love is pervasive, moving in us and through us, not just when things are going well, but also when things are NOT -- not just when our partner is thrilled with us, but even when they are disappointed and angry with us. The only way we can love at certain times and then not love at other times is to have times where we separate from God's love and pursue our own interests.
That is what is happening in a relationship like this. Both partners, well-intentioned as they may be, habitually separate from God's love and cast out on their own. Their desire to win the argument overtakes their desire to love and be loved. Their desire to give the other person a piece of their mind overtakes their desire to live in peace. And so in many ways in our human relationships, this is our story. It is what I call our noble tragedy. The human story is the story of people who deeply long to love and be loved but who are trapped in fear and cannot do either as well as they would like to. It is the story of people who are in fact dearly and deeply loved by God, the one who is both the source and standard of love, but who nevertheless struggle to live in the love that is there. We can learn about it, talk about it, sing about it, but we often live and act as if it's not there at all. What happens in those moments?
That noble tragedy was our topic last week -- our struggle to love and be loved. And I promised you last week that after setting up the struggle, I would be talking to you this week about God's love -- because those struggles we have -- the fights and fears -- whenever they take place they take place with the infinite love of God clearly available right at that exact moment. It is not as if God loves us when we act wonderfully and hates us when we misbehave. God's love is freely available always - the question is how do we come to live in it? How do we think about it and let it get into us and shape our minds and hearts and words and actions? How do we live, in THIS PRESENT MOMENT, in the love of God?
You may not be consciously aware of it, but some of you are in the process of bettering yourself so that you can find God -- improving yourself so that you can know and experience God's love and grace --trying to root certain tendencies and habits out of your life so that they do not hinder your life in God. But the so that puts you in charge. If you have to do this or that so that God can show up, then God's presence is in your hands, not God's. God and his love and grace are then limited because while you strive to improve yourself for some future time, you miss God's love and grace that are available to you in THIS MOMENT. And that is my message to you this morning. Not only that you are loved by God, but that you are loved by God right now -- in this moment -- just as you are. The failures and shortcomings that you are working furiously to eliminate so that you can know God -- they are no obstacle for him. But they obviously are for YOU!