Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 21, 2004
Learning God's reciprocal love
Real love involves choice, free will, is given in return
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Have you ever wondered why God put his precious gift of life in such fragile packaging?
If life is so sacred and precious - as the Scriptures proclaim - then why did God place it in bodies made of flesh and bones? Skin and flesh tear and bleed; bones and hearts break.
Why didn't God encase his precious gift of life in bodies as tough as granite with the human psyche safely guarded, as though behind some fortress? Such thoughts occasionally arise within me from a desire to protect loved ones from life's pains and sorrows.
After all, there would be no need to wipe away tears if none are shed. But then, humans encased in bodies like granite, with hearts like stone, would be of no use to God or man. Granite is impenetrable.
Hearts of stone would never ache, break or melt.
God is loveAfter more than 20 years of chronic illness, I have come to the conclusion that the purpose of our time on earth is for spiritual growth not mere survival.
The Scriptures tell us that God is love. A God of love must have something to give his love to and humanity is the object of his love. We know this because - as far as we can tell - humanity is the only thing in creation to bear the indelible image of God.
A God of love must surely want to be loved in return. A central aspect of genuine love is that it is given freely. Real love is a choice and an act of free will. That's what makes love a high-risk proposition.
As soon as an option exists for choosing between two things, there's a risk of making the wrong choice. The stakes of love are horribly high both for God and humanity.
But the prospect of living in a loveless world is unthinkable.
Risks of freedomWhen God created human free will, he knew his love might not be returned. People may choose to love the world rather than the Creator of it.
When our Lord said, "For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be"), he was challenging human priorities (Matthew 6:21). Christ was laying out a stark choice for humanity: Either love God and the permanent things of heaven (yet unseen) or the temporary things of earth.
Our first love and priority can be to seek "treasures upon earth" (to use Christ's words) or "treasures in heaven." Jesus spoke of them as two mutually exclusive masters of the heart and soul.
"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve God and mammom" (verse 24).
Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property. But it could also symbolize anything temporal and fleeting such as youth, beauty, health or social status.
To choose anything over God is to rebuff his love. Love spurned is a terrible experience. To love without reciprocation is a bitter thing.
Divine overtures rejected, despised or even mocked must be unbearably painful to the heart of God. He could have made us without the capacity to decide and programmed us like robots to drone his praises. But that is hardly love returned.
Jesus said he prefers people who are hot or cold toward him, not lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-16). A heart animated by love or hate is still human; a heart dead with indifference may as well be made of granite. Indifference to the love of God is worse that cursing him.
Love is vulnerableGod made himself vulnerable for the sake of being loved. Why should we expect anything else. To love is to be vulnerable: It goes both ways. Hearts of stone and souls in fortresses would not be protected from risks and buffeting of life, they would be prevented from living. Is that what I wish for my loved ones in order to save them from pain or sorrow?
Vulnerable people accept and radiate love best.
I wrote earlier that I have come to the conclusion that the purpose of our time on earth is spiritual growth not mere survival. This is what I meant. We only have a short time to learn and grow in reciprocal love-both human and divine. God's model for love encourages interdependence not independence. We were designed to live in communities not fortresses.
At the very beginning our Creator said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 2.18.)
Designed for relationshipsWe are designed for relationships. Granted, you may find the odd recluse who prefers life as a hermit, but they are the exceptions to the rule.
No! They are the exceptions that prove the rule! Fortresses separate and isolate. Granite is cold and hard.
People live best in the warmth of interdependent communities of reciprocal love. Love makes human beings vulnerable and fragile.
Despite this, I believe that divine love ultimately prevails. And that's the treasure in heaven about which Jesus spoke.
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