God is a loving God, but it helps to understand God’s love

Updated: Jan 30

Raise your hands if you love “love.”


Good.  Now, raise your hands if you have children … or were ever a child.


Now there is a combination – children and love – the two truly go together.


Still, I know some people who would gather in a reverent setting, such as in a church on Sunday, and get a little peeved if someone else’s little bundles of love and joy had not yet learned the discipline of silence.


noisy kids in church

Children can become as distracting as children are distracted.  It is only natural.


Still, there is a proper place for everything.  In Ecclesiastes this is written: “For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter.”


When we hear the word “love,” especially the women folk, our minds drift off into warm and fuzzy memories of everything cute, cuddly, and that which is all smiles and kisses.  So often we relate God to this definition of “love” and translate it as meaning His willingness to forgive and forget.  Aaaaahh.  Love.


Still, for the men folk, the word “love” often means less outwards displays of emotions and romantic embraces; but instead, a sense of duty, commitment, and responsibility.  I love, therefore I work.  As such, “love” can come across cold and unfeeling.  Grrrrrrrrr.  Love.


We see this “love” expressed by God’s protection of His children, in the stories of the “wrath of God” in the Old Testament stories, and find it difficult to see God’s “love” displayed in actions that some might not see as loving, in any way.  Likewise, some might call the Department of Family Services is they ever saw a parent spank the diapered bottom of their own child, for having done something wrong.


This is where we miss the point of “love” including the aspect of “tough love.”  That is the source of the proverb, “If you spare the rod, then you spoil the child.”


Please, do not get me wrong and think I am promoting going home and beating someone you love with a switch.  That is not the point.  The point is that “love” very often means saying or doing something that makes a sinner know he or she is sinning, so he or she will realize that and stop sinning.


In TV Commercials, this concept is presented when they imply the power of a Snicker’s candy bar can change personalities.  Someone not acting himself comes back to reality after getting a chocolaty-caramel, peanut-nougat sugar rush.  Thus, the Mars Corporation represents “love” as being when you help a friend snap out of bad behavior, into good.


snicker's love

In the Gospel reading today, we see a “love” competition.  We begin reading where the Sadducees have been silenced.  What silenced them was Jesus answering their question about whose wife a widow would be in heaven, if she married seven brothers while alive on earth.  The Sadducees did not believe in any Resurrection to heaven, so they made fun of that possibility.


Jesus shut them up by saying, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”


The “love” competition is each squaring off to help the other to understand the error of one’s way, with each holding a position of error-free holiness.  Jesus won that match of “love.”


It is “love” because if Jesus did not love the Sadducees, then he would never have made himself known to them.  They would have never cared to pose a question to one like Jesus, who so loved the Sadducees that he cared.  Because of his love, they should know the truth and be set straight.


Then, the “love match” between the Pharisees and Jesus followed.  Those “lawyers” prided themselves on knowing every one of the 613 laws of Moses.  With that many, the Pharisees thought it was impossible to see any one of them as more important than another.


Because Jesus loved them, he told them plainly that the foremost law for YAHWEH’s priests was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  He then added a second law that was important to add to the first, which was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


That one-two “love” punch was followed with the coup de grâce, which was Jesus lovingly adding, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


The Pharisees were speechless.  They were not expecting Jesus to “love” them in that direct way of teaching them what they should have known, but had not realized.  They were cold from Jesus’ blows of “love.”


KO

This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.” “I love you man.”


While they were backed onto the ropes of the “love” ring, dazed, wondering what hit them, Jesus then lovingly asked them, “What do you think of the Messiah?  Whose son is he?”


It was their duty to fight back lovingly, so they responded truthfully, saying what they believed the answer to be.  They said, “The son of David.”  However, Jesus slapped them with one more “love” revelation.


Jesus told them that a son of David would certainly be flesh, like Jesus was, but also like the Pharisees were.  The difference was how you saw the flesh as a meaningless point to defend.  The Pharisees expected the Messiah to be the son of a king, and bow to no one; but King David bowed down before his King, addressing God as Lord.  So the Son of God could not be descended from one lesser than God.


That means the Messiah would not be the son of an earthly ruler, but the Son of God, Israel’s King and LORD.  A true Son of God would have greater abilities than David had … as a prophet, as one without sin, as one able to perform miracles.


The “love” bout was over.  Jesus had more love that came out of his lips, from his heart, than those on the temple steps could counter.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were done in.  They realized their “love” was of self, centered in their minds only.  There they were, pretending to be descended of Judean royalty, waiting for a Messiah king who would love them by handing them the riches of the Roman Empire, securing property titles in their names, simply because they wore purple robes and made sure the Temple was neat and clean.


Their “love” was not the warm and fuzzy kind that is emotionally based in a mother, nor was it the serious and responsible love of a father, who teaches as well as disciplines.   Jesus had just shown to them a Father’s love, to set them straight.  Their “love” was worldly, not spiritual; and they needed to realize that.


Now, the laws that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees might sound like one of the Ten Commandments, but it is not.  It is actually from the Book of Deuteronomy, as that is where we read how Moses told the Israelites, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  You can find that in chapter 6, verse 5.


The second law that Jesus told the Pharisees, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” that is found in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 18.  The whole verse says, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”


When Jesus said, “On those two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” that means none of the laws of Moses can ever be meaningfully maintained without “love” in the heart, through the Holy Spirit.


When Moses said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” you have to understand that this meant “with all your soul,” which is God’s breath sent into your flesh and bones.  It also means “with all your mind,” which can only be part of the equation AFTER your heart has received God, and your soul has been raised by the Holy Spirit.


You cannot “love” on a spiritual level when you try to limit “love” to an encyclopedia article or dictionary definition, or some minuscule essence of thought, as if “love” can truly be captured in a Harlequin romance novel or a Lifetime cable-channel movie.


Love is so much more than "Fabio love."

Love is so much more than “Fabio love.”


When you grasp this concept correctly, and if you then read Leviticus 19 (an alternate reading choice for today) closely, you see that this “love of God,” in “heart, soul, and mind,” is how Apostles are made.  An Apostle must be realized as one filled with the Holy Spirit, and it must be seen that EVERY LAW hangs on that presence.  A “prophet” is one so filled.  The people and the Pharisees saw Jesus as a “prophet,” but they did not know how to become a “prophet” themselves.


That is because they all misunderstood “LOVE.”


In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “We had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi.”  That reference was to the persecution Paul (an Apostle of Christ) and his co-Apostles suffered, at the hand of the local Jews, in the synagogues of Philippi.  Paul wrote about having a “love” match with them, and being run out of town.


While Jesus won his “love” bout with both the Sadducees and Pharisees, remember he too was persecuted.  Both Paul and Jesus would be killed because their Jewish “neighbors” failed to maintain the foremost law of being themselves Apostles, and then the second foremost law, which was “love you neighbor as an Apostle,” not as someone whose heart isn’t in loving properly.


In Leviticus (which is the book of rules for God’s priests to follow), Moses passed on these commandments:


“You shall not render an unjust judgment.”  Ooops.  That rule did not favor the Pharisees and Sadducees judgment of Jesus.


“You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great,” which means do not favor the poor by ignoring their poverty and do not look away from those who you love, simply because they provide you with the butter you love to spread on your bread.  Ooops.  That was another rule pointing out the failure of the Sadducees and Pharisees, because they made the poor outcasts and saw themselves as great.


Moses continued, saying: “With justice you shall judge your neighbor.”  This is important to realize, as “justice” means fair judgment, rooted in a heartfelt “love” of God, with one’s soul and mind tagging along with God’s Holy Spirit.  Ooops.  That was another failure of the lawyers to maintain this.  They certainly were judgmental, but Jesus regularly exposed the errors of their judgments.


Moses wrote, “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin,” which means (since all of the Israelites were descended from Jacob), “do not hate any other Jews.”  Ooops.  The Sadducees, Pharisees and Jews of Philippi seemed to have some hearts hating, at least towards Jesus and Paul.


Finally (but not all that was written), Moses said, “you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.”  That means it is your responsibility and duty, from a “love” of God in your whole heart, to point out the mistakes, trespasses, and sins of your neighbors (i.e.: your fellow Jews or Christians).


I mean, if you see someone making an honest mistake, you tell him, right?


tough-love-3

If you have a child forgetting to be quiet in church, you take him or her to the nursery for some “love” lessons, right?  Not as punishment, but as a commandment to reprove, lest you get blamed (rightfully) for raising  loud, distracting babies.


“Love” means never having to say you’re sorry for being responsible for someone else’s sins.  You won’t be,  as long as you “love” them as you would want them to “love” you back.


Thus, “Love” also means never having to say you’re sorry for not listening to a neighbor (a fellow Christian, who is an Apostle of Christ), who expresses his or her “love” for you, by pointing out your sins.


Tell me where I’m going wrong, so I may go right; but do it with a purity of “love.”


Amen

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