Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mr. Spock's Love Language?

Think back to when you were in High School, when deep awareness of self and of others was awakening everyone like a loud and persistent alarm clock. Remember how awkward and needy you could feel while navigating the crowded hallways?

Seeming to complicate matters were the hormones newly flooding our bodies, playing a rough, inside game that resulted in passion and fear and hope and delight and disappointment and pimples.

And love. LOVE. What the heck was that?! We were beginning to figure out that love was at the very least invigorating and desirable; it was much more than we had thought.

Let’s pretend that there’s a Christian speaker who will be addressing some of them at a youth meeting tonight. And let’s add a twist—the speaker is you, now an adult. What do you tell them?

This is the theme of what I’ve heard many times at such gatherings: “Love is a decision. Here’s how to make good ones . . .”

Have you heard it? I think fear is the motivator for that approach. Our youth are alive in ways they’ve never been, and we’re terribly afraid of the damage they could do to themselves and to others. After all, they’ve got to learn to control themselves.

And there’s the problem. We offer them control when God is offering love.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) God is not a “how to”, a big list of how to make life work and how to get ahead so that in the end you can retire well and leave a legacy for your kids. God’s love is not a decision. There are decisions because of His love, or as a result of it, but God Himself is love.

What youth need is the love of God. They’re set up for it. (You are too.) With everything going on in them and around them, what will save them and enable them is God’s love. If they have and know Him, do you suspect the chances will be higher that they’ll make good decisions and have self-control? Yes. That’s the fruit of the Spirit—God Himself now in them. But if we teach them to major on making good decisions, they may well end up with the result of love instead of love. They may make good decisions, but not actually know God.

I think this plagues the church now, but it doesn’t have to.

Try this. As you read the following, have in your mind what you think God’s love is like:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Look at all those marvelous words—blessed, in love, predestined, adopted us, pleasure, will, glorious grace, redemption, riches, lavished, good pleasure. What a smorgasbord of happy news. And that’s how God was and is! Love Himself made the decision, and Love makes it today. But why? Because God wants to—so He does!

The love of God compelled God, and it still does. I'm so glad! If life is about making good decisions—Get going!—then do you see what’s happened? We don’t actually need love because we can just make decisions. Making the correct decision becomes the primary goal, and most of our teaching and sermons and books go in that direction. There are lots of good intentions, like improving our relationships, something that’s important to us all. It's simply logical. . .and calculated.

But is that really what motivated God? Is that why God ". . .blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"? Because it was a good and perfect choice? I know that He decided to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, making us holy and new. But was it calculated only? Just a strategic decision He made?

No way! That's not the love of God that I know. God wanted to! And it's the want that motivates the decision. He is full of holy and passionate desire. His love is ever flowing to me, ever convincing me, ever rescuing me from doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief. . .and convincing me that He is as good as He says He is. He doesn’t love me because He made a decision for it—“Well, okay then. Sigh. I will love Ralph.”—He loves me because He IS love. He works to express love to me and to you, and is satisfied only when you and I understand His love and revel in it—our “getting it” consummates His love. Am I being clear enough?

Which is better: to believe that God makes an every day, every moment decision to love, or that God IS love and every decision of every day and every moment comes from love?

The former casts God as a sort of cosmic mathematician, a Super Computer, measuring and calculating the happenings of the universe. Where is action necessary? Where must I place blessing? Where must I prove that I am Benefactor? Star Trek fans might think of receiving a love letter from Spock. Ooh. I bet that would really warm you up with passion and power. Mr. Spock’s love language could only have been—say it with me—“Logic, Captain, logic.”

Frankly, I think this concept of God’s love—love is a decision—has, in fact, kept people from love. Rather than know the magnificent love of God for themselves and for others, they’ve accepted a result of love as the real deal itself. They’ve got the decision to love without the motivation. They’re trying to act like there is heat in their inner fireplace, when all that’s there is wood. No wonder they grow weary.

The love of God is not His gravy, it’s His main course!

If God IS love, then what do you suppose His thoughts about you are today? If the two of you were to go to Quizno’s this afternoon for a sandwich and a chat, what might He want to talk about? If you were to enjoy a time of prayer this afternoon, and you asked, “What do you think of me, Father?” what do you think you’d hear? “Well, Karen, I have decided to love you. There you go. Now let’s get on with the day—here are my instructions.”

No way!

But if God IS love, then even when the stuff of your day seems contradictory to love (and I have had whole seasons like that), you will be drawn to Him in order to know Him. “Father, I know you love me. So why is this happening? Has anything changed? Is Spock sitting in the Captain’s Chair right now? No? Well then, what’s going on?” And you’re set up to know Him—and knowing Him is everything. Even if He doesn’t point to a clear reason in answer to your question, you will get what He is for you—love.

He is compelled by love. And you’re the perfect place to express it.


  1. LIve Long and prosper!!!!!Lol great article as always! God is love, its a great reminder!!!

  2. RALPH!!

    What an excellent article on the subtle and deadly difference between real agape love and "how to love" (or "making a decision to love").

    I think that much of the church believes that our lives in Christ are all about "how to" make good decisions and "how to" live the Christian life, etc. In doing so, we've deceived ourselves and cheated ourselves out of real agape love and have replaced it with a very poor substitute. It sure looks shiny from the outside but on the inside it's really dead.

    I used to say that at least the motive is right... trying to teach people to make the decision to love, and "how to" live the Christian life, etc. But I don't even think that's God's motive at all, nor should it be ours. As you say, it actually keeps people from love.

    I use this example: If I were to tell my wife Tracey that I love her, and then tell her that the reason I love her is because I've made a "logical decision" to love her, or "Honey, I love you because Jesus commanded me to love you" or "Honey, I'm following the Bible's rules and principles that tell me to love you," how absolutely dead and cold would that really be! I don't think people think this stuff through.

    The words, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" are directly preceded by, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

    We hear the words "ought to" and make it out to be a command. But "we ought to love one another" isn't a command or a principle or a decision to make. It's a response to and a fruit of "God is love" and "I no longer live but Christ lives in me." Even in Jesus' "new command" to love one another as He has loved us, there is a subtle distinction between making it a rule and living it out as a response to His love.

    You're so right... anyone can make good decisions and even behave lovingly toward others, even apart from true agape love! Life in Christ isn't about making good decisions and "how to" live the Christian life. It's all about "God is love," and us living in that!

  3. That is so nice to be reminded of! I like that!

    - Becky

  4. Boy, I'm likin' this! Yes! You get it.
    And, so, you have drawn the line for us between religion and relationship... and it's EVERYTHING!!
    Everything else hangs on this one truth.
    Thanks for articulating it so well.

    I'll take relationship, thank you. SO done with religion!
    It only frustrates, because I can not decide to love ANYone. It is a hamster's wheel.

    Religion will NEVER make sense; it rejects this truth, and tries to put us in control... BAD idea.

    Thanks for a great uplifting post!

  5. Interesting, I think there are two halves of this concept. One is God's half and the other is our half.

    God's half, of course (I say this like I never doubt this idea), is that he loves us without question without our showing our love back.

    Our half, however I think should be a decision sometimes. Mainly because we are not equipped with the perfect love thing. There are days that I am not particularly fond of following God. For any number of reasons, I'm sad, I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm run down, I'm too busy, etc etc ad nauseum. That doesn't mean that on those days we should smile and know that He will always love us and use that as an excuse to kick the neighbour's cat.

    I'm not saying that deciding to love should be a topic for teens but I'm also not completely in the camp that deciding to love God is a bad thing.

    I wrote a post on something similar here:

  6. Thanks very much for your comments, everyone. How excellent it is to pitch in on this topic and encourage each other.

    Connie--I think the decision to not kick the neighbor's cat (for example) or to treat people well is not necessarily a decision of love but a decision of faith. I generally treat people well because I believe they are made in the image of God and so forth. (Sorry, I'm in a hurry.) While I really like having the very love of God Himself for people, I don't wait for love to surge within me before treating someone with respect and dignity. Does that make sense? But I don't think that's love, I think that's faith.

    On those days when my flesh wars against the Spirit in me (Gal 5:17), inducing me to not want to follow God's leading or to offer myself to Him, I still live by faith. I recognize the struggle as their struggle (flesh and Spirit), and choose the Spirit, who produces His fruit. But that's too much to get into now.

    Sorry for the rambling, Connie!


  7. That makes sense.

    So the faith you are talking about is the knowledge that God is a caring and loving and involved God, and because we have faith that this is so, we should treat our fellows well because Our God is their God.

    Because of our decision of faith, then we act in a loving way. So when we see ourselves not acting in a loving way it is a problem of faith not of love? Hmmmm...that will take some thinking on.

    Ralph, I enjoy your posts more than you can appreciate. I got Hubby hooked on them from your weekend guffaws, and now he is an avid reader as well. May the Lord Bless you and keep you, and I pray you be able to continue your ministry.