There’s an old adage that says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It means if you want to have a different outcome than before, then you must change what you are doing. I feel like we as a society are stuck in an insanity do-loop. We keep expecting a different result but we just keep doing the same old thing. When our nation experiences some tragedy, we all pull out the same old phrase “God heal our land” or “pray for peace.” But what does all that really mean? Are we really willing to do anything differently so that those things will actually happen? Are people really going to start praying? And to whom are they offering their prayers? We can’t expect God to come heal our land when we refuse to even acknowledge that He exists. When we start crying out to God in these situations, it’s typically because we just want the “good” stuff from Him, the blessings. But are we willing to accept the “bad” stuff too? You know, like that whole judgment of sin thing. Or repentance.
We parade around as though we are our own gods, refusing to bow our knees to the Almighty Creator God, yet appeal to Him only in times of tragedy and grief. God does not command us to love Him only when something bad happens. He doesn’t ask for our prayers only when in sorrow. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. We are to love God at all times. And how do we do that? By knowing God and by keeping His commands. We deny knowing there is a Creator and refuse to submit to his Lordship, yet we demand His mercy be upon us.
And then we hear phrases about how love should triumph over hate. If we only loved more, then all these problems would go away. If only criminals would love more. If only the police would love more. If only terrorists would love more. If only we loved the terrorists more. But we have to be careful about that phrase as well. Just going around loving is actually not helpful at all. The criminal and the terrorist love their crimes and terror. So just saying this generic “love” doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, there are certain things that we ought to hate. The criminal ought to hate crime. The terrorist must hate the harm they bring to other people. We must hate injustice. We must hate evil. We must hate sin. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.” That seems like a straightforward thing to do. We can’t only love - because we must hate evil. We can’t only hate - because we must love good. The difficult thing now is what is the “good” that we are loving and what is the “evil” that we are hating? Do we have them confused? Isaiah 5:20 gives a strong warning concerning this. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” We must first understand to hate evil and love good. But we must verify that we have correctly identified what is good and what is evil!
How do you think we are doing on this? Are we calling sin good and acceptable, taking darkness and declaring it as light? And what about the things that are good and those who stand for it? Are we also calling them evil, asserting the light they shed on sin is them being in the dark? Our nation has taken things defined as sin and held them up as good and profitable. And at the same time, those who point out those issues as sin have been labeled as evil, as bigots, and whatever kind of “phobia” fits the situation. What is it that causes us to do this? The very next verse from Isaiah tells us how this happens. It says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” It means that when we as humans think we are wise enough to determine right and wrong is when we better watch out. When we use our own judgments for light and dark is when we will get them wrong. That is when we will begin to call evil good and good evil. And that is when we think “love” will fix everything. But we are loving the wrong things! We are embracing sin and rejecting purity. We have to use the Word of God to distinguish what is right and wrong, good and evil, or else we will fail every time. Now, I am not saying that all tragedies are because God is judging us as a sinful nation. What I am saying is it is ludicrous for us to demand His mercy and His love when we won’t acknowledge His existence and we won’t accept His lordship.
So in our typical response to evil, people just cry out for more love. I think we renamed a whole decade on this idea. But when we reject the concept of God, then we reject any concept of what love truly is. 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.” So if you remove God from the equation, then how does one define love? Love would be defined by people, and it then becomes whatever you want it to be. It means that man gets to decide who to love, when to love, and how to love. On the surface it sounds like we should champion that idea. But man’s definition of love is exceedingly selfish and fickle. It means each person decides their own definition of love. But man loves selfishly, looking out for our own interests, instead of truly loving others. Of course we may like to think we do a good job on our own of loving others. But do we really? We may do a decent job of loving those people who love us. But what about loving our enemies? Loving the people you like is easy. It’s loving the people you don’t like that gets hard. Or even just as a simple as loving the people you do like when they’re not doing likeable things. Man-created love will love only when it benefits him, only when it’s easy, only when that love is returned in some way, or maybe only those who are just like him. God-centered love will love your enemies, will love when it’s difficult, will love when no one else chooses to love and who no one else chooses to love regardless of how different they may be.
To fully understand this, we can turn to one of the more popular passages from the Bible, particularly during wedding season. It’s called the “Love Chapter” after all. 1 Corinthians 13. Paul gives us an understanding of what true, Godly love is all about. Granted, since we typically only read this during marriage ceremonies we tend to only think of a spousal relationship with it. But it is applicable to all relationships. Love is patient (it doesn’t get fed up with other people, but suffers alongside), kind (gentle, a grace that mellows our sharp edges), rejoices in truth (celebrates when sound theological truth is rightly understood and applied), bears all things (protects and shelters), believes all things (assumes the best in others), hopes all things (optimism for the eternal hope in heaven), endures all things (remains under pressure instead of looking for an escape). Love is not jealous (envious of others’ gifts), not proud (does not brag), not rude (unbecoming), not selfish (meeting our own desires instead of someone else’s), not provoked (not tempted to anger, goaded into evil to strike back), not keeping records of other’s wrongs (love lets it go), does not rejoice in sin (how could love rejoice in that which killed Christ?). Love never fails. Honestly stop and consider, how well do you do those things with your family (or your children!)? With your friends? With your co-workers? With those whom you disagree? With those you don’t like?
Without this kind of love, everything we do is like a clanging cymbal – no music, just noise. We like to think we do well at this but when we honestly consider it, we rarely love our chosen friends and special family like this much less those people we don’t like to associate with. To be able to have this kind of love, it requires a submission of ourselves to the One who IS Love. So when the world demands “more love” but refuses to submit to the authority of love, they are just a clanging cymbal. No melody. No beauty. Just noise. Just selfishly loving those they like, those that give them something in return. And that kind of love will never change the world. To change the world, we must have Godly love. Yet the world will always hate that kind of love. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Now, is that to say that God-centered love is played out perfectly among God-fearing believers? Of course not. Because we are still selfish humans. But it’s the Christian God who demonstrated what a perfectly, unselfish love looks like. God commanded us to love one another the way He loved us. And how did He love us? John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And it is that sacrificial, undeserved love that Jesus showed for us on the Cross.