Thursday, February 08, 2007

Love the Way God Intended

Okay, honestly, raise your hand if you have ever said of thought any of those things you saw in the video towards your husband of wife. There have been times in my life when I have wondered why or better yet how my wife loves me as much as she does. I have rolled out of bed before, look into the mirror and said, “What was she thinking?”

I’m glad that I am confident in the fact that my wife loves me but where does that confidence come from? Part of it comes from when I look in the mirror. She is too smart to put up with a guy like me for all theses years if she didn’t really love me but the main thing that gives me confidence is my understanding of love. Not the love that we find that video, or on television and in books and magazines but love the way God intended it to be.

My goal through this lesson is to illustrate through some personal examples from my life God’s design and intention for love. Not that I have a better life than you do or that I am somehow on a pedestal above you, because I don’t think that way and if you know me then you know for certain that I’m not. However, I have to use illustrations from my life because you didn’t give me permission to use illustrations from yours.

Look for a moment at how the bible describes love in 1 Corinthians 13.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Look at the adjectives in this passage. Can you honestly say that these descriptive words are found in your love relationships? If you can’t then you do not love the way God intended.
We have to understand that love is a process. All of these characteristics don’t just pop into the picture the moment you first fall in love. Rather they are developed over a time through the process of learning how to love.

The mistake that we often make is to assume that because love is a natural emotion then all the characteristics of love will come naturally with it as well. That is simply not true! Marilyn and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary this coming May, Lord willing!, and I can honestly say that I am so much more in love with her now than I was almost 14 years ago when we stood at the alter and shared our vows.

Why is that? It is because over the last 13 plus years I have been learning how to love her. That’s the beauty of love the way God intended for it to be. Through the process of instilling all of these qualities into your relationship you actually see your love for another person grow.
With Oklahoma among the top five states in the nation with the highest divorce rates there aren’t as many people who will give you the testimony of their marriage that you just heard from me. There is no shortage in theories when it comes to identifying the reasons for a rising divorce rate but the problem is actually pretty simple. People just simply don’t want to adjust.
The process of love requires adjustment.

I told you earlier that Marilyn and I are close to celebrating 14 years of marriage but honestly some of you have been married for so long that you would still describe us as being in the honeymoon stage. Think about this for just a moment. How many things do you know now about your spouse that you didn’t know about them before you married them? What kind of adjustments did you have to make in order to continue loving them? What kind of adjustments did they have to make in order to continue loving you?

That’s the process that I am talking about. For you to enjoy love it has to grow and for it to do that you have to be willing to invest time and effort into the process making the required adjustments.

Failing to adjust to the process had implications on all three types of love relationships.
Eros – Romantic relationship
Philia – Friendship relationships
Agape – Godly relationship (also the way you should love your children)

Let me tell you two quick stories. Several years back the church that I was working at hired a new secretary. She was exceptional and very efficient in her work and above all else was a huge OU basketball fan. She had a grandson around my oldest son’s age and we would tell stories about the boys as well as talk sports just about every day.

One fall she asked Marilyn and I if we would like to tickets to the OU/Texas football game. Absolutely we did! It was the perfect opportunity to get away from the kids for a weekend and enjoy some alone time as well as watch our favorite football team. Going to the Cotton Bowl to watch the Red River Rivalry is the Mecca to both Oklahoma and Texas football fans and we finally had an opportunity to make the trip ourselves.

On the day of the game parking was chaos. We finally made our way to a small lot where we paid an outrageous amount of money to park our little car. After passing through the gate into the lot we were guided to a tiny spot to park. It was so crowded in that lot that after we pulled in the parking spot there wasn’t enough room for Marilyn to get out of the car. I tried to pull the car over to a lager spot so we could have enough room to actually get out and the lot attendant came sprinting over to emphatically tell me why we couldn’t do that. It was at that point when I saw my beautiful wife do something I had never seen before. She actually got out of the car and stood nose to nose with this man matching his tone of voice and body language demanding that she either get a parking spot that would allow her to get out of the car or her money back.

I was absolutely speechless. Try your best to get the mental picture of my little wife matching a rather large man in a battle of wills. I had never seen this behavior before and had no indication to ever expect to. After just a few minutes we were invited to enjoy a parking spot at the very front of the lot that left more than enough room for us to exit the vehicle to which Marilyn said, “Now, that’s more like it.”

Here’s the thing about Marilyn. She doesn’t settle for second best. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parking spot, our kid’s grades, the condition of our house or whatever. She wants the absolute best for herself and her family. Sometimes that attitude can be frustrating to me, especially when it comes to house cleaning, but it was something I needed to adjust to and here’s what I realized.

There are day when I don’t feel very confident in who I am as a person, a father or a husband. Hey, I’m just human and I am the first to admit that I am very imperfect. Its that truth in life that often causes us to feel less than we really are. Check this out, my wife doesn’t settle for second best and she chose to marry me! It is not in her nature to settle for second rate and I am the guy she fell in love with. What does that say about me? It says that I am not second rate, I am not second best. When I am having a bad day at work and feel like a miserable failure, my wife doesn’t settle for second best. When I have messed up at home and guilt makes me feel like a bad father or husband, my wife doesn’t settle for second best! Do you see the adjustment there? That is the process of love.

Here’s another angle from this story. When we returned home from the weekend I shared the parking story with our friend who gave us the tickets. She laughed and thought it was funny but guess what happened the next year? Not only did she come through with tickets again but this time she got us a parking pass that allowed us VIP parking right next to the team busses.
Now over the course of our friendship we have given her a few gifts as well on holidays and birthdays but I can honestly say that I have never given her anything like this opportunity and yet she continued to get us the tickets year after year for as long as she could. Here’s why? God’s intention for love isn’t self-focused.

How many times have you based a gift on what you received from that person? How many times have you helped out a friend only to the extent that they have helped you? Are your friendships based on you or are you truly reflecting God’s intention for love.

There is another aspect to love the way God intended and that is the Agape or unconditional love. His love for us is not based upon our actions, good or bad. His love is based solely on His love. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to make God love you any less. In fact the bible teaches that if we could then we could never again gain that measure of love back.

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Hebrews 6:4-6

Jesus was crucified once for the forgiveness of man’s sin. It was God’s love for you that allowed Jesus to go to the cross. Many people will try to use this passage to make the point that you can actually lose your salvation but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. In fact, the warning is that if you could fall away you will never be able to come back. Why? In order for God to withdraw His salvation from you not only would that mean that the cross wasn’t enough it would also mean that He would have to actually go back on His word and quit loving you.

Do we deserve the cross and God’s offer for salvation? No! Do we get it anyway? Yes! Because God’s love for you and I isn’t based on condition.

When I was a kid there were many things my dad asked me to do or not to do. I wish I could say that I always did what I was asked but I was a child and as children do I often disobeyed. My disobedience earned me what I deserved which was punishment by my father.

I remember one particular incident when my brother had deliberately disobeyed our parents and were caught red-handed by dad. Knowing what was to come we were sent to our rooms to await our punishment. In our minds this punishment deserved spanking and when dad arrived to our room we “assumed the position.” However instead of swatting us (what we deserved) dad actually gave us some toys and candy he had bought earlier in the day for us.

It was the perfect time to explain God’s grace which is simply defined as unmerited favor or getting from God what we really don’t deserve. Dad could have easily spanked us and been justified by it but instead he chose to take the opportunity to show us favor and instill in us the confidence that even in our disobedience he still loves us.

There is a lot of talk and debate today about what is and is not sin but the simple truth is that sin is anything that is outside the will of God for your life. It is an act of rebellion against God and the bible teaches that we deserve eternal separation from Him (death) for those willful acts of rebellion. Instead of justifiably giving us what we deserve God instead offers us the gift of salvation in what is His greatest example of love the way He intended it to be.

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