Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Smack-Down: God's Love vs. Mr. Spock's

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?

Complicating 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 yet experienced.

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

What I have heard many times at such gatherings is this: “Love is a decision. You had better make good ones, and here’s how. . .”

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 made man "Batteries not included"—love is the needed connection and power.

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 just a decision. There are decisions because of His love, or as a result of it, but God Himself is love. No one causes God to love, because God already is! You cannot do anything to make Him what He already is and does. Does that make sense?

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 or the behavioral evidence of the Spirit—God Himself now in them. But if when we teach them about God, love gets 10%, and how to make proper decisions gets 90%, they may well end up with the result of love instead of love. They may make good decisions, but not actually know God. And that won't work.

I think this plagues the church right 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. 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 all 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 correct decisions 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 and keeping us from bad ones, 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 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, “Logic, Captain, logic.” That'll light your fire.

When giving someone you love red roses, announce the following: "Well, honey, I read somewhere that women like flowers, so it seemed pretty smart to give you some. There you go."

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.

(Because I am busily writing new material for my book to be published by Harvest House in January, my posts are sometimes re-posts, as is this one. Don't hate me.)


  1. Cindi Estep1:22 PM

    I love it♥ I especially liked this part: The love of God is not His gravy, it’s His main course! Thanks Ralph!

  2. Janice Armstrong Roberts1:22 PM

    Awesome Ralph ... love it! And yes, I get it.

  3. Mari Norton Jackson1:23 PM

    That is the best explanation of God and Love I think I have ever heard. Awesome.