Summary: This sermon focuses on God the Father whom Paul says is love. We all need love to develop and be healthy. But God’s love is not the soupy, sentimental kind of love. It’s tough love.
Tough Love: God the Father
We’re in the second week of this month’s series on the Trinity. Last week, our emphasis was on a God who demonstrates his nature as a God of unity. There is one God who celebrates diversity as three distinct persons…the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father. This one God in three honors equality in that all three persons are equally God and only one God. God celebrates diversity in his creation, His children and calls us in our diversity to unity. The mission of Jesus is to tear down the walls that divide us. Whatever nation, ethnic group or culture we come from, Jesus came to show we are one family and to reconcile us together as children of God. That’s how our mission fits into the nature of God: “Connecting diverse communities to a lifestyle devoted to Jesus.”
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we see the role each person of the Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit will be with all of you.” Paul reveals the Trinity has 3 functions. In God the Father, we experience love. In Jesus the Son, we experience grace. In the Holy Spirit, we experience God’s presence of God.
Today, we’re focusing on God the Father whom Paul says is love. We all need love to develop and be healthy. But God’s love is not the soupy, sentimental kind of love. It’s tough love. Tough love provides boundaries, discipline and accountability in life to get us to do what’s best for us and others and to help us become what God created us to be. Tough love includes two things: law and grace. What happens if a person grows up without law, boundaries, discipline and accountability? You become selfish, self-centered and undisciplined as a person. Everybody needs law in their life. But tough love needs to be balanced by grace. Every single person needs to know that they are unconditionally loved and accepted, that you are created in the image of God and God will always be there for you. Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” There is nothing you can do to be separated from God’s love. Law without grace will lead to rebellion. Some of us grew up in homes with a lot of tough love but no grace and so our image of ourselves and other people has been distorted because our self-esteem has been crushed. If you grew up in a home that had all grace and no law, you become self-centered! There has to be a balance between law and grace and we find that in God’s love for us.
Many of us do not understand what love is. When we think of love, we equate love with a feeling and thus it’s sentimental. First, love is not sentimental; it’s covenantal- commitment. In Hosea, we get a clearer understanding of tough love. God is a God of covenant and that means commitment. He equates his relationship with you and me to marriage. In Hosea 2:16 God says, “On that day, you will call me ‘my husband; you will no longer call me ‘My Baal’; you will no longer call me ’my master.” Any Baal is a false god or any idol you have in your life that you give yourself to other than God. When you replace God with something other than God, that is a Baal. When you call God Lord or Savior, it means you’re making a commitment to Him.
What’s the difference between covenantal love and sentimental love? When you first meet the love of your life, it’s all about the passion and feeling. Your mind and heart races when you think of them. That may lead to dating seriously and even becoming exclusive. You may even live together but that’s not the same as marriage. Once you’re married, everything changes. Marriage is an act of binding, “until-death-do-us part” commitment. A lot of us are still living with God but we’re not totally committed to Him. We come to worship to talk about and even experience the love of God but we never really make a commitment to live for God in every thing part of our lives. Love is covenantal – it’s a binding, “until-death-do-us part” commitment.
Second, love changes who you are. When you marry, you change your name. It changes your whole identity. And “two become one.” It was an adjustment for me when I got married because I worked whenever, and however late I wanted to. So when I didn’t come home after 5:30, Giovanna would call me and ask, “Where are you?” I was used to just going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted to do, and now those decisions had to be made mutually, together. The difference between sentimental love and covenantal love is that there is a legal binding agreement and that means obligations. You can feel in love, you can hang out, and you can play together. But get married and all of a sudden her debt is my debt and my time his her time. When the gynecologist sends me a bill with Smith on it, you know you’re not who you used to be! Love changes who you are and what you do.