Is it possible that we make an idol out of loving God?
I wrote last week on the concept of being “so heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good”, which you can read HERE. I think it’s a ridiculous expression, and the heart behind saying it is a form of idolatry. I don’t know what it might look like in practice but I imagine to some extent it’s a circling of the wagons. It is cutting yourself off from the world to protect yourself and maybe your family from the dangers lurking behind every crevice of this sin-infested habitat.(as if that’ll work) In reality, being so heavenly-minded you are no earthly good means that you might not be very heavenly-minded to begin with. This brings me to my original question born from that previous article:
Is it possible that we make an idol out of loving God?
If the answer is yes, then what we’re saying is that we probably don’t love God as much as we think. If the answer is no, then I suck, and you probably shouldn’t read anything I write anymore. (Because you know, I’ve got such a large following in this little neck of the Internet woods.) I’m not really trying to challenge your faith, but the application of your faith. This is as ironic as it gets for me, as I am regularly frustrated by the “personal applications” of scripture by churches and others because of the overemphasis of it that seems to make it fall into the category of salvation by works. We often challenge people to be doing “X” and if you’re not, maybe you’re not in the faith, you’re backsliding, you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing, not really sincere about your relationship with God, or some other nefarious thing that anyone could think of. Too many times we are encouraged to do things by the “or else” and not by the “because He”.
I know I’ve digressed a bit, and you have my apologies. I do like to write, but I never claimed to be any good at it.
Sometimes, when things aren’t going quite right in some area of life, one thing Christians will do is try to get back to some kind of regimen. A regimen of reading or meditating on the word, as well as prayer, neither of which is ever a bad thing. Some catchy Christian phrases written on memes across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media sites might encourage you to get back to your true love, God. They will tell you things like:
“A bible that’s falling apart belongs to someone whose not.”
“Maybe the reason your boat’s sinking is because God wants you to have enough faith to walk on water.”
“Are you desperate enough for God to hear you?”
Whatever the clever phrase is, it encourages you to get back to the basics, but it does so with the caveat that if you do, everything will start to go well, fall in line or be fixed. That my friends, is law, law, and more law! That’s really all it is. You are not returning to God because you love Him, but because you want him to bless you. That’s what people do. We are at heart, legalists, and want something from God transactionally for everything we are doing. We follow advice and retreat to our bibles looking for God to now be pleased with us, and “fix” everything. We have made an idol, not out of God, but out of how we seek Him or more importantly what we want from Him.
In this way we are a lot like the remaining older son in the story of the prodigal. The one who remained was no less rebellious than the other. His words and actions at the end of that parable showed his father that he was treating him as just as much a commodity as the son who left with his portion. He was the son who thought his blessings and inheritance came from his ability to follow the rules. I’m no different from that son. There are times I expect something from God, not because He’s good, but because I am. When we do this, we often equate “good” with the Reading, Prayer, Meditating (RPM) model of good.
This is often done to the determinate of engaging people. Not just any people, but those directly connected to you in your life. Again, I am guilty as charged. I can’t write this stuff without the video of my mind playing back all my “greatest hits.” I will retreat to a simple existence that is as close as being sealed into a sound deprivation chamber as possible. I don’t want to hear about troubles and difficulties. “I’m a Christian now, things should be getting better”. I end up just wanting to talk to God, reading my bible or some other biblically sound material, and think on all these things constantly. I know I’m not the only one. We all have relationship faults of one kind or another. I’m just being real here.
If I’m loving God, “truly” loving Him, then I have to acknowledge some things:
1. I don’t love Him enough, and I never will.
2. God forgives me for this, and loves me anyway.
3. I don’t love the people around me enough, and I never will.
4. God forgives me for this, and loves me anyway.
5. Though I don’t love them enough, there may be times I love the people around me more than God (which says way too much about how little I may truly love God).
6. God forgives me for this, and loves me anyway.
I am a sinner, called saint by God through the work of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. I am a new creation in an old body, which means like the apostle Paul, I struggle with the two natures within me. But the struggle, whether internal or external calls for a reliance on God. A trust that, despite our struggles, rests in the fact that we still belong to Him. That is so important to me, knowing intimately all my fears, past, present, and future. I need to trust in Christ, and not in any ability of my own.
What that trust does is free us. It frees us to love God, and others imperfectly. It frees us to make mistakes. It frees us to even be hurt by others sometimes, and love them anyway, which I admit is not an easy concept, and one I sometimes fail at, but it also frees us to be forgiven when we do fail at it. I’m free to be hurt and forgive, because Christ has been hurt by my sins, and I am forgiven by God because of Christ’s sacrifice. I’m so grateful to know that, and to know that I will never do this perfectly, and I never have to. I don’t mean that as an excuse to be a slacker and do nothing, but as an encouragement to try to know that it has no bearing on my salvation in Christ.
My last admission of the day. I don’t read, pray, or mediate enough on the Word of God. My last question. Who does?
My God and Savior has been more than enough of EVERYTHING on my behalf so I don’t have to rely on “enough” ever again. My hope is that, what he has been for me continues to drive me even if I get off course occasionally.
I pray my love for God is not another idol that I look to make difficult times better, but a trust that I might better love in difficult times.
…and be forgiven when I don’t.