Everywhere you look in the world people are seeking love in a variety of ways:
- Companies want their customers to ‘love’ their products
- Employers want their employees to ‘love’ their organization
- Sports franchises want their fans to ‘love’ their home team
- Advertisers want to track your digital data to discover what you ‘love’
- People are soul-searching so that their ‘loves’ and life match up
- Everyone yearns for deep and meaningful ‘love’ in human relationships
Why? Well, partly because ‘love’ is its own reward. It is the ultimate win-win scenario. Think about it, love evokes voluntary and self-giving passion, loyalty, trust, commitment, sacrifice, joy, promise, hope, and fulfillment. There is no compulsion! No one has to necessarily compensate us (pay us, make a deal with us) or threaten us to act in a certain way when we are acting on what we love. Companies want customers to love their products so that we will keep coming back ON OUR OWN. Employers want employees to love the organization so that we give 100% effort ON OUR OWN. Teams want passionate (and big-spending) fans to be FANATICAL about the team ON OUR OWN. If advertisers discover what we love, we will search out their ads ON OUR OWN. People yearn for a life of purpose and meaning and if we can connect with what we love, we will build that life ON OUR OWN. And, everyone yearns for the trust and mutual respect of a loving relationship, a relationship in which partners freely, committedly, and even sacrificially relate to one another.
If love has such a central role in ordinary human life as we know it, it is not surprising that love features prominently in the Christian life of faith as well. This-coming Sunday we will be reflecting on ‘Lives Changed by a Living God’ (our post-Easter worship theme) and looking at the lives of Biblical figures, historical figures, and ourselves as we are called to STAND FIRM in the faith.
OK… what does ‘stand firm’ really mean anyway? In daily life in generally means ‘sticking to the plan’ in the face of temptation, hardship, or doubt. We ‘stand firm’ when we stick to our diet and NOT eat the chocolate cake for dessert. We ‘stand firm’ when we wake up and go to the gym at 6:00am instead of hitting the snooze button. More seriously, we ‘stand firm’ when we resist the temptation to backslide into an old addiction, when we walk away from what could be an adulterous encounter, or when we maintain integrity in the face of an opportunity to lie, cheat or steal for personal gain.
In the life of faith ‘stand firm’ means to stick with God even when it would be easier or more comfortable to walk away. All throughout the Bible we learn that God puts little stock in the treasures of the world, the power of human institutions, or pleasure and comfort as a way of life. So, God does not have much ‘worldly’ stuff with which to bribe or compensate us to stick with God. What God does offer is love: God’s love for us (most powerfully expressed in Jesus’ life and death and resurrection); the assurance that our love towards God is life-giving and life-changing; and the calling to ‘change the world’ by loving others.
The Gospel of John charts the all-important role of love in human relationships with God and each other. Over-simply, it is a three step process. 1) God loves us. 2) We love God. 3) We love others.
Step 1: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Step 2: Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23
Step 3: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34
This week I challenge us to look at our lives and priorities and ask the question: “What’s love got to do with it?” Are we ‘sticking with God’ on our own, or are we walking away and following more comfortable, more tempting, or more compensated (by the world’s standards) paths?