Friday, December 27, 2013

Rethinking What it is to Love the Lord

SoS 2:3 As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. 2:4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

In the Song of Solomon the bride constantly expresses her love for her beloved by describing all his wonderful attributes. We understand this book to describe the love between the Lord and the church or his bride.  In Ephesians we are exhorted to love our wives as Christ has loved the church and gave himself for her.  We know how he loved us in the cross and so we know what our love for our wives should look like.  But the quoted text above is speaking of our love for the Lord.  What I would like to do is to use human love as an illustration for how we are to love the Lord.  I believe a case can be made that we can easily fail to understand what it means to love God as we ought and often love temporal things more intensely than we do the Lord.  If the sum of our duty to him is to love him with all our heart then understanding how to do that is rather important.  So let me offer a few thoughts on loving Christ as we should love our wives.

Think about those things other than God for a moment that we really love.  Hopefully this will include our wives but my example will work for any object.  What do we do with those things that we really love?  We will get one if we can and we study it and get to know it. If it is a sport or musical instrument we will practice and get as good as we can.  If it is a hobby we will read every book on the subject so that we can understand it as well as possible.  We display it; we want others to enjoy it like we do; to see the beauty in it in the way we do.  We certainly speak about it when given half a chance.

If we are speaking specifically of our spouses then true love is seen in that we love to converse with her and get to know her.  I think of the hours we spent on the phone when my wife and I were first getting to know each other.  You care about who she is and what she loves and how she thinks about things.  Love isn’t displayed by only caring about what she can do for you but what you can do for her.  Simply put, you find her interesting.

This is sometimes illustrated in gift-giving.  A good gift for your loved one is not one picked up at the last minute with no real forethought.  A good gift is one that you get based on what she would like.  You take the time to understand her and find something that you know would please her, not yourself.  Suppose I get her a wok for her birthday because I like Chinese food and so I get her a wok so she can make me Chinese food?  It isn’t hard to see that it is my love for self that is my motivation in “celebrating” her birthday.  It is completely backwards.  It isn’t her person that I am in love with but myself.

Now let’s use that to examine how we love the Lord.  As with the betrothed in the Song of Solomon, she is caught up in the loveliness of her beloved and can’t get enough of him.  If we love God we should want to know everything about him well beyond whatever hobby or object and activity that we might love on earth.  But it is right here that we often see a problem. 

I am always puzzled by those who claim to love the Lord but say things like, “We don’t need to be concerned with doctrine or emphasize it; we just need to experience the Lord”.  Does this not sound a lot like I don’t really want to get to know him in the main way he has revealed himself, his Word, I just want to have an emotional, light relationship with him.  In another context we would call this a one night stand, no commitment, just a cheap thrill.  Knowing and experiencing and serving the Lord is more than just getting an emotional high during the church service.  We are exhorted to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, not just to seek momentary “thrills” that aren’t based on solid truth.  Our Lord is far too glorious to just get emotions and feelings from him.

It is like some marriages that I have the misfortune of seeing now and then.  Here is man who is quite content to live in the same house with his wife, go to work and provide for her, keep up with household repairs, take out the trash and maybe even sleep with her but is just as content to never have a real conversation with her.  He doesn’t care about her thoughts, dreams, desires or how her day went.  As long as she has dinner prepared and is ready in bed when he is then he is content.  That isn’t a biblical marriage, let alone a satisfying one and it won’t work with the Lord either.

A Christian who isn’t interested in careful, thorough, life-long Bible study can’t really be all that interested in getting to know the One he claims to be the love of his life.  Those things that we love, we love to be around and learn about and talk about.  To be content to have a relationship with Christ as long as you know he will be there for you when you need it or just one that is based on feelings and emotional highs but not on carefully listening to what he has to say is really missing the point. 

In my next article I will try to show how all this is related to living in the New Covenant. 

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