Tag Archives: love

Ducks – In a Row or Otherwise

Willful Grace: And Your Point Is?

Grace has written another wonderful article that hits you right in that soft, sensitive spot of pride. Ouch. But it does give me pause to finally write about a topic that’s been on my list for a while now and that I just haven’t quite found time to talk about yet. So, before I get started, go read what grace has to say (and comment if you feel led to do so) and then come back and we’ll chat a bit further on the subject.

Go on, go. I’ll wait right here. Go, now, I mean it!

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Done? Wonderful. Now here’s my two bits on the topic:

It is impossible to judge a man until you’ve walked in his shoes for a while. This is a phrase that we are probably all familiar with, yet it is also one that most of us conveniently forget. We forget that the reasons for an individual’s actions are usually multifaceted and complex. It is only in understanding the _person_ that we are able to understand his _actions_. Orson Scott Card points to this complicated interpersonal relationship in his _Ender_ series, where the brilliant Ender Wiggin must defeat his enemies by understanding them so thoroughly he is able to predict what they will do and why. In so doing, however, Ender also comes to love the very enemy he destroys because he knows and sees them as they see themselves.

Most of us are oh so quick to pass judgment on another. We see the way a person dresses, the way they speak, the way they act and behave, and we pass judgment on them, particularly if we disapprove. The individual never gets a chance to prove the reasons for his actions because we have already decided for ourselves that they are not worth more than the dirt on the bottom of our shoes.

There are two similar but subtly nuanced ways in which we judge an individual. First, we cannot judge what a person is _made_ of until we have walked in their shoes. To put it a different way, we can’t know what drives them, what motivates them, what inspires them to do certain things or act in certain ways, until we have spent some time trying to understand what their needs are, what dreams they hold and have, what ideals are important enough to them to shape their behavior. We tend to assume that everyone else is like us, that they have the same values we do, that they think and believe the same way we do. We project our own personality traits onto these other people and then expect them to act and behave the same way we would, and when they don’t, then we criticize and condemn them and push them in a category that we consider to be the Untouchables. Yet, when we are (rarely) faced with the opportunity to learn the _true_ motives behind an individual’s actions and discover that they are driven by, say, desperation, for example, we are ashamed of rushing into judgment and feel guilty for not considering other alternatives for this person’s behavior.

The other way in which we judge was hinted at in the previous paragraph. We cannot pass judgment on an individual until we truly know and understand the _why_ of their actions. Now, we are all aware that we should not judge, yet we still do so. It’s part of our fallen nature, I think, to pass judgment on another, rather than simply seeing them as a fellow human being. The interesting thing about learning what a person is _really_ about is that it usually forces us to revise our judgment of them. We have categorized them as Untouchable, as someone to be shunned because they did or said something that we consider shameful. It’s not fair because we would be terribly upset if someone were to do the same to us, yet we find ourselves falling into that trap all too easily. But when we find out _why_ the individual in question did something, we realize that we might just as easily have acted in the exact same manner for the exact same reasons. We find that our judgment was unjust and unfair, and we (hopefully) begin to view this person in a new light – with compassion, mercy, and grace.

We cannot judge what a person is made of or judge the justness of their behavior until we have walked a day (or more) in their shoes, until we have seen the world as they see it, through their eyes, through their need, through their desperation. We would want others to take the time to try to understand the motives behind our own actions. Why, then, can we not extend the same courtesy to others, no matter how Untouchable we may _feel_ they are?

Why Does God Love Us?

“Rob”:http://www.unspace.net has been sharing a series of articles about a friend of his that has had a significant impact on his life. “Part 3”:http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/ of the series received the following comment:

bq. Sorry, but I’m not okay with someone loving me in spite of their belief that homosexuality is wrong. God loves me because I’m a flawed human being, not in spite of it. ((“http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/#comment-1118”:http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/#comment-1118))

I realize, first of all, why a homosexual would object to being loved by someone despite their belief that homosexuality is wrong. Naturally, it isn’t so much the affection that they object to but the belief itself. No one likes to be told that they’re wrong. That’s part of why we tend to make friends most easily and most commonly with other people who believe like we do. So, of course, homosexuals don’t like to be told that their way of life is wrong, and they take offense at such beliefs. This is probably not helped along by the fact that there are many people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, who have a deep, abiding hatred of homosexuals.

Now, say for example, you know of someone who disagrees with you on one of the most fundamental tenets of your worldview, someone who insists that they love you in spite of that difference. I would imagine that this love is perceived (and received), then, as pity rather than genuine love, due to the knowledge that this individual disagrees with you. And since you feel like you are receiving pity for a perceived difference, that in itself adds to the intial offense, compounding it to painful levels. At least, I think that’s the way I would probably see it and react to it.

The major problem with the above comment is its poor theology. God loves us first and foremost because we are His. He made us, and so He loves us _because_ He created us. We are His handiwork, a reflection of Himself. He never intended us to become sinners, even though He knew we would. Therefore, He most certainly _does_ love us in spite of our sin, in spite of our flaws. He will one day redeem His children, those who believe in Him and have accepted as Savior, and renew us by making us perfect and sinless again.

So, much as the sentiment that God loves us because of our flaws _sounds_ nice, it’s actually an inaccurate and dangerous view of God.

I do wish that more Christians could be like Rob, though, and reach out to the homosexual community with love and understanding. Doing so does not mean that we accept their lifestyle as good and acceptable, but it does mean that we view them just as God views them, as sinners like ourselves, in need of salvation and redemption. It would mean that we could break the cycle of hatred and violence and work to bring more of the homosexual community to Christ. Isn’t that what we are here for, after all?

Care or Con?

The Demystifying Divas and the Men’s Club are writing about this week’s topic a couple of days early. The question for this week is this – is Valentine’s Day really about romance, or is it just another way for ‘The Man’ to reach his hand a little deeper into your wallet?

In these our United States, every holiday seems to be cause for spending a few more of our hard-earned dollars. Chocolates, flowers, fancy dinners at expensive restaurants, perfume, lingerie – all gifts that are often given only once a year. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be that way. It just seems a bit cheap to me if Valentine’s Day is the only day of the year that you pamper your sweetie.

I’ve never gotten into Valentine’s Day much, for that reason. But my wife and I have developed an annual tradition – rather than buying a dozen roses for her that will only wilt and die within a week, we now order one or two rose bushes to be delivered when the planting season is prime. In effect, the flowers I give her each year will be enjoyed year after year after year because they will be growing in our own little rose garden.

My wife doesn’t like chocolate; she doesn’t like perfume; she doesn’t wear much jewelry (though she has mentioned a time or two that she would love a new pair of diamond stud earrings – I’m still working on that one). She is, in fact, a very practical woman, which makes things easier for me. I’m glad that she gets so thrilled about ordering our annual rose bushes. We both have a bit of a green thumb, and it’s going to be fun to watch our rose garden grow and develop in the coming years.

Valentine’s Day gives me an excuse to pamper my wife a bit more than usual, but for us every day is Valentine’s Day.

Catch “Silk”:http://justbreathe.blogs.com/just_breathe/2006/02/in_love_with_th.html, “Theresa”:http://www.thismomblogs.com/2006/02/14/be-my-valentine/, “Phoenix”:http://villainsvanquished.blogspot.com/2006/02/would-you-be-mine-or-would-you-rather.html, “Ally”:http://whomovedmytruth.com/?p=559, “James”:http://jamesyboy.blog-city.com/the_mens_club_valentines_experience.htm, “Darren”:http://rightontheleftcoast.blogspot.com/, and “WitNit”:http://witnit.blogspot.com/2006/02/valentines-day-1997.html for more.

Long-Distance Love

The Divas & Men ask, Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? Do long-distance relationships work out? It seems this is a subject that most of us have some experience with. Personally, my recommendation has pretty much always been to avoid long-distance relationships wherever possible. The mortality rate for such romances is, unfortunately, very high.

I went through three such relationships before I met my wife. The failure of the first was my own dumb fault; I was young and immature and my heart wasn’t in the right place. I did, however, learn much from that experience.

My second long-distance relationship was probably my hardest. I’d already been with her for over a year when she found she needed to move back to her home state to finish her schooling. Things worked out for several months, and then everything fell apart. In the space of a couple of days, involving several _very_ long phone calls and lots of worry, things fell apart and she called it quits. Because she was the first woman I’d really ever loved, it was also probably the worst pain I’d ever felt. We had been so sure we were going to get married, and all those dreams and plans went up in smoke in a matter of moments. It still amazes me how quickly it happened, and to this day, I’m still not entirely sure what happened. It took me several months to get over the anger and bitterness of that breakup. But again, the 18 months I’d had with her, and the ultimate collapse of the relationship, were very enlightening and enriching for me.

My third long-distance relationship was a bit more brief. She graduated from college a year ahead of me, and so we parted ways for the summer. It was not too long after that that I noticed something was wrong. A brief conversation during a short visit with her confirmed it – she wasn’t sure she could deal with my periodic bouts of depression. We actually parted on very good terms; I appreciated her openness and honesty, though it still hurt to lose another woman I loved.

At this point, I was beginning to develop a superstition about long-distance relationships. So far not a one had worked out.

Then I met my wife. It didn’t take long for us both to discover that we were a perfect fit for each other. We’d both been through the School of Hard Knocks in Love, both been through long-distance relationships, both knew exactly what we wanted in a spouse. She was the one who proved to me that it _is_ possible to survive time and distance apart – she spent the summer in China right after we got engaged. And when she got back there was a little of that shyness and awkwardness that comes from being apart for so long and from not really being able to talk as openly as we’d have liked. We brushed the figurative dust off things and began the serious work of strengthening our relationship and planning our wedding. This May we will be celebrating our third wedding anniversary, and she is _still_ the perfect fit for me!

So, does absence make the heart grow fonder? I tend to think it does. At least, it did for me. Do I recommend long-distance relationships? Not really, though admittedly they are sometimes unavoidable (and I have seen quite a few strong, healthy couples emerge from such struggles). My philosophy of dating is that it is the get-to-know-you time for a couple to determine if they are compatible for marriage. That’s hard to accomplish when you’re in separate cities. You can’t see the situations and contexts that bring out the various nuances and behaviors of your significant other. As a result it’s difficult to actually get to know the other one and is part of why I think most long-distance relationships ultimately fail. You need that time together to learn about each other, to see how the other acts and reacts in as many different situations as possible.

Long-distance is still possible; it just means you both will have to work harder. Not everyone can do it, but those who can also seem to have very resilient relationships – they’ve already overcome a huge obstacle together.

Check out the others in this little collaborative for more viewpoints on the subject – “Silk”:http://justbreathe.blogs.com/just_breathe/2006/02/so_near_and_yet.html, “Theresa”:http://www.thismomblogs.com/2006/02/09/absence-and-matters-of-the-heart/, “Phoenix”:http://villainsvanquished.blogspot.com/2006/02/distance-makes-heart-grow-fonderor-go.html, “Ally”:http://whomovedmytruth.com/, “Darren”:http://rightontheleftcoast.blogspot.com/, “James”:http://jamesyboy.blog-city.com/, and “WitNit”:http://witnit.blogspot.com/.

Embrace the Outcasts

I’m not entirely sure I understand the problem. Isn’t the Church supposed to be the epitomy of grace, love, and understanding? Then, why are there so “many”:http://scatteredwords.com/ who are so alienated from Christians, who “feel”:http://willfulgrace.blogspot.com/2005/10/my-blog.html as though they have to keep their struggles secret? Aren’t we supposed to be the _first_ ones to reach out to those in need so that we may provide support, aid, and comfort? Yet, one of the biggest areas of ministry is being ignored and overlooked in so many of our churches. Tim Wilkins, founder and CEO of “Cross Ministry”:http://www.crossministry.org/index.htm and a former homosexual has devoted his life to reaching out to the homosexual community. One of the most important pieces of wisdom he provides is that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but righteousness. The reason that this is so key is that most Christians seem to think that the way to bring a homosexual to God is by turning them into heterosexuals. Unfortunately, this approach has never worked, but apparently few ever realize this. This creates a certain level of pressure on the struggling homosexual, who is already wrestling with unwanted attractions to members of his or her own gender. Coupled with the discomfort of heterosexual Christians who are not sure how to relate to and interact with the homosexual, this generates a lot of tension, further alienating the homosexual who finds it easier to stay away than to continue interacting with ineffective Christians.

Most unbelievers are quick to “accuse”:http://btalbot.blogspot.com/2004/06/fear-and-self-loathing-in-dc-is-topic.html Christians who are wrestling to overcome homosexuality of being fakes, frauds, and pawns of the ex-gay movement. They simply “do not understand”:http://www.deeperwants.com/cul1/homeworlds/journal/archives/002784.html that homosexuality is wrong, that God has something better in mind, that it _is_ actually possible to overcome homosexuality and live a life of righteousness. Tim Wilkins is a prime example of what God’s power can do in a person’s life.

As a result of Christian impotency in ministry to the homosexual (as well as those who respond with “condemnation”:http://dyinginchrist.blogspot.com/2005/12/homosexual-agenda-most-americans-do.html and “anger”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/64/) and the ridicule that originates from the unbelieving community, the struggling homosexual is left with no support group. He is rejected at every front, and so the only solace is to hide his ‘secret’ from everyone but God and himself. It is so refreshing and encouraging to “hear”:http://scatteredwords.com/d/2005/12/light_years.php about good groups of Christians who are willing to come alongside the struggling homosexual and embrace him — physically, as well as emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically — accepting him as he is and helping him to work through his struggle. So few Christians are able to overcome their own discomfort (a product, I believe, of the lackadaisical society in which we live) to reach out to the homosexual, and that is why I support and approve of organizations like Cross Ministry, who work to jostle people out of their complacency and provide teaching and encouragement and a summons to righteous living. They take a lot of flak from every side, sadly, and theirs is a difficult job, but they provide a model for us all by which we should live.

We as Christians need to make a concerted effort to ignore our discomfitures and model ourselves more after Christ by reaching out to those whom we may consider undesirable but who are in such a state of need and support and encouragement and to whom Christ has mandated we reach out. God loves them. Shouldn’t we also?

Loving and Hating

A “series of questions”:http://www.xanga.com/godchaesr/402392715/god-loves-me-god-hates-me-at-the-same-time.html thrown out by “godchaesr”:http://www.xanga.com/godchaesr:

bq. could it be that hatred and love are not opposites? could God love someone and hate them at the same time? What is hatred? How would you define it? Could we define it as complete/total disagreement with?

These questions prompted me to take out my “Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=xD6JwZSChB&isbn=0785211608&itm=2 and conduct a little bit of research. There are several ways that the word ‘hate’ is used throughout the Bible.

The first (and most common among Americans) refers to a strong sense of jealousy — everything from bitter disdain to outright hatred. Another use of the word is “ingressive”:http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=ingress, specifically, in this context, of beginning to hate, of initiating these adverse feelings. A weaker sense of the word indicates being set against something, as in hating, or being set against, murder, crime, sin, etc. ‘Hate’ can also mean to be unloved, untrustworthy, may indicate failing marital relations or alienation, and may indicate a preference of one person or thing over another.

To answer the first question — _’could it be that hatred and love are not opposites?’_ — in some cases they are, at least humanly speaking. Typically, when a person says they hate someone, there are no feelings of love in their hearts whatsoever, though, of course, this is not always the case, since saying, ‘I hate you’ can actually mean ‘I really dislike you right now.’ God Himself does not hate His creation with outright hatred, though He may hate in the sense of setting Himself against something or someone. So the second question is answered — _could God love someone and hate them at the same time?_ — by recognizing that God loves all people, though He may be set against them at times or prefer one over another (see, Israel, Esau, etc.). The last questions — _What is hatred? How would you define it? Could we define it as complete/total disagreement with?_ — have, to some extent, already been covered merely by elaborating on the research. Several definitions and uses have been laid out above? Could we define it as complete/total disagreement with? Yes. Yes, I think we can, though it would be considered a weaker use of the word. Such a use would probably fall under the same sort of header as ‘set against’, since the times in history that God was set against Israel was when they went against His directives. God had to set Himself against them for a time to bring them back to Himself.

Good questions, godchaesr.

In the Background

Christianity is a faith, I believe, that functions in the background. Or at least it should. The Christian faith is a personal one. It functions as the relationship of individual to Deity, but it is also a function of individual to individual. The most effective dissemination of the Gospel has always been on a one-to-one basis. Granted, God has blessed many great evangelists over the years with widespread ministries, leading hundreds and thousands to Christ at a time. But I think the numbers would show that the greatest spread of the Word has been through personal relationships with each other, with letting the Christian lifestyle speak volumes, with communicating our hope in casual conversation. When Christians take the Gospel to the public arena, particularly the political arena, the message somehow gets tainted and stilted. In that realm emotions like fear flavor the good news in a way that is often harmful because political-religious concerns involve protecting the right to worship. That fear drives that political action, and what starts as a movement to protect freedom of worship almost turns into a blanket action to forcefully establish a state religion, something that the founding fathers were very careful to protect against. (Of course, there are also those who use their beliefs to foster an attitude of superiority, who allow that attitude to breed anger, hatred, and bitterness, but those are the individuals that need to be separated from the whole because they clearly do not aid the Body. They are the cancer that brings the Body down and should removed.)

Christianity is a faith that operates best in the background. Our faith should be visible, but not obnoxiously so. Our faith should be presented with love and compassion but also with patience and understanding, two virtues that I think are all too often forgotten or ignored. No one can be forced to believe in Christ or in God, yet the practice of our faith should be compelling and awe-inspiring. This is why it is so important to develop active relationships with other people — with other Christians for the strengthening of our faith and the renewal of our spirits, and with unbelievers so that we may demonstrate with our lives and testify with our lips the power of the hope that is in us. Let us relate our hope to others and build the Kingdom one life at a time.

Accountability of the Body

It occurs to me this evening that within the Body of Christ, there is less accountability than there ought to be. Everyday I see instances where unbelievers are angry, cynical, and bitter toward Christians because of the general behavior of many they have seen and experienced. It pains me to know that Christians are perceived in such a negative light, but I also realize that those stereotypes and categorizations are justly deserved. Many Christians are sadly some of the more judgmental and hypocritical people I know.

But it also occurs to me that the Body should hold itself accountable. We should be policing ourselves, practicing the Biblical guidelines for loving, compassionate confrontation for the sake of the good of the whole. Anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ is subject to this accountability, and any brother or sister in Christ should be able to approach any other brother or sister and confront them about sin, hypocrisy, heresy, etc. When notable Christians are in the news and/or are publicly behaving in a way that reflects badly on the Body, other Christians should be making phone calls, writing letters, making personal visits to that individual, expressing their concerns, citing biblical references for why the individual’s actions were wrong, and endeavoring to rectify the situation so as to repair the testimony of the Body as a whole. Yet we shy away from this duty because we are afraid of the confrontation, afraid of being rebuffed and scorned and ridiculed by those same individuals and possibly by others in the Body. But we should do it anyway because it is the right thing to do and because it so damages our testimony and hinders our work and the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, this is my challenge to all of you and to myself — stand up for what is right, seek to reprove, rebuke, and exhort according to the Word of God, and strive for greaty unity, harmony, and communion among the Body. In the long run, we will be stronger, happier, and
healthier for it, and we can really get about doing the work of the Lord.

Love Is More Than A Feeling

There is a common misconception in our culture that love is a feeling, that it happens automatically, and that the lover has no control over its coming and its going. This is readily apparent in the high divorce rate, in the apathy and carelessness of ‘casual sex’, and in the shamelessness of the media (probably the loudest promoter of this myth). Part of this is probably due to the fact that physical and romantic attractions do encompass a great deal of feeling and emotion, both of which tend to be very salient and thus more easily recognized and, to an extent, more easily defined and demonstrated. And so long as these feelings and emotions continue, love is easy to extend.

The trouble is that love, while inherently very emotional, is really a decision made by the lover on behalf of the loved. It is a definitive commitment, made at a specific point, by the lover that says, “No matter what happens and no matter how my feelings may fluctuate and change, I will love this individual.” Because feelings do shift and change over time, across every topic and issue. That is part of human nature. But what should not change is the commitment to go on loving someone once that love has been extended.

Christ tells His people to love with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Paul encourages husbands to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loved the Church. Conscious decisions. And you know Christ didn’t perform his most magnificent work of love because of feeling. No, indeed, He made a conscious decision, submitting his will to the Father, even though His own emotions were encouraging him otherwise.

So, while you may feel an attraction toward someone, even have a ‘crush’ on them, you cannot say that you are ‘in love’ until you have made that decision to do so. Feelings are tremendous facilitators to love, but all too often they deceive and betray, leaving a trail of broken hearts and broken relationships, when they are placed in the driver’s seat of love and relationships.

Feelings make better servants than masters.

Problem of Evil

The problem of evil in the world has always been one that has tested men’s faith. And not just their faith in God. We’re also talking faith in people, faith in institutions, faith in the power of good to overcome evil, and so on and so forth. Yes, there is a LOT of evil in this world, a lot of it. But on the other side of the formula, there is also a lot of good. It is just that evil tends to be louder, more flamboyant. People notice it much more quickly than they do the good things, and they make a bigger deal out of it. Our media is partly to blame for this, of course, but so are we. I mean, how often do you find yourself gossiping with someone else about some big story you heard? You know, the one about the woman who left her husband because she was sleeping with an artist and decided she loved him more than her husband. Or the one about the husband who ran down his wife in their front yard with the family minivan. With their 9-year-old daughter in the passenger seat. Isn’t it so easy to talk about these things? Don’t they inspire a lot of conversation? Don’t they incite some of your baser passions? Don’t they excite you in some horrifying manner of disbelief and shock? And isn’t it so easy to become cynical about people, to question how a supposedly loving God can allow such horrendous things to happen to such (seemingly) good people? Isn’t it so easy to let such horror and pain and suffering — and yes, evil — quench our faith just a little? And then, one day, you find that you have become so hardened in your heart that you wonder why you had any faith to begin with. We have forgotten the good things. We have forgotten that there really is a God who loves and cares and who hurts to watch these things happen to the creatures made in his likeness. It was never meant to be like this. It was meant to be a perfect world. But God in His sovereignty did not want a mechanical love from His creation. So, He gave us free will, and we chose to forsake Him, accepting the consequences of that decision. And now sin and evil exist, for a season, and we must bear that. Soon, though, all will be made perfect again, and sin and death will be no more. Pain and suffering and sadness will be wiped away, and it will be like they never were. Until that day, we must walk strong and keep the faith and look ahead, as Paul said, on those things which are before us, forsaking those things which are behind us, plodding on to the goal which He has set before us, therein to be made into the image of the Son. So, keep the faith, my friends, and be encouraged. These hardships we face cannot last much longer, and then we shall enjoy a bliss unlike any other we have ever known.

Amen

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What can I say…. I was inspired….