Steve’s Devotional – Love is Unnatural
FEBRUARY 19, 2020
God makes a big deal out of love. In fact, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ are marked by love. Love is so central to the biblical message you would think that, even if we got everything else wrong, we would at least get love right. If God talks so much about love… Why do we love so little? Why don’t you love? Why don’t I love?
Love is Unnatural
I don’t love because love is unnatural. “In return for my love they are my accusers” (Psalm 109:4). “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
Did you know that love is mentioned in the Bible some 1,000 times? God used repetition for a reason: love is unnatural. God’s repetition says something about him and about us: God is willing to repeat himself so that we will understand…and we have a hard time getting it.
A while ago, I joined my wife and a friend for dinner at Disney World. The restaurant was filled with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale, and several others. Those characters love children…and not only that, they love old, bald guys. Every time one of the characters walked past our table, they kissed the top of my head or rubbed it for luck. In fact, Minnie kissed the top of my head some seven times. Add to that Chip and Dale. One more time, I thought, and I’m going to cream them!
While all this excitement was going on, I noticed a young man standing close to the characters and I called him over. It turned out that he was the characters’ guard. I asked him why such sweet characters needed a guard. He said, “Oh, they need one because there are people who attack them. Once a man threw Mickey Mouse over his head into the bushes!”
In a world where Mickey Mouse needs a guard…love is unnatural. Hate is natural. Why would someone attack a Disney character? More personally, why would I think about attacking a Disney character?
Far more important, why do I find myself threatened by my brothers and sisters in Christ? Why is it so hard to love those who are different from me? Why does hostility come more easily to me than love?
Love is Uncontrollable
I don’t love because love is uncontrollable. Have you noticed all the times in Christ’s ministry when people did inappropriate things and he admonished the critics, not the people themselves?
Remember the time when the children swarmed all over the Messiah. The disciples tried to stop them and Jesus said, “Let them come…”
Remember Peter’s comment at the Last Supper when he felt that Christ’s actions, in washing the disciples’ feet, were inappropriate. “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter said. To which Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).
Remember the prostitute who showed up at the church supper and Simon’s comment about Christ’s inappropriate actions toward her. Jesus said, “Simon, I have something to say to you…” (Matthew 26).
Remember Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha prepared dinner. Martha criticized and Jesus responded, “Martha, Mary has chosen the better part” (Luke 10).
Remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The religious leaders made a comment to Jesus to the effect that he ought to quiet down the crowd. Jesus said, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).
In almost all of these incidents, I believe we see the primary sin of our lives—the need to be right, the need to be good and, above all, the need to control others’ perceptions of our rightness and goodness. Why is love so unnatural? Control is so natural.
The principle is this: there is a direct and inverse correlation between love and control. The corollary to that principle is this: abandonment is to love as water is to thirst. In other words, in order to love, we need to abandon control.
Love is Unconditional
I don’t love because love is unconditional. “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47).
As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about Christ’s unconditional love. God’s love is not dependent upon our goodness and our obedience. What we don’t spend much time on is the fact that our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be on the same order.
That is the point Jesus made in his parable about the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. A king had a servant who owed the king 10,000 talents and he couldn’t pay it. Out of his compassion, the king forgave the debt. As it turns out, the servant had a man who owed him 100 denarii. He went to the servant to whom he owed the debt and pled for mercy. The servant refused and threw his fellow servant into jail. Then the king heard about it and was quite angry. He simply couldn’t believe it. Matthew 18:32-33 picks up the end of the story, “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’”
I noticed in the church that a drunk cannot accept or give love except from another drunk. A divorced person cannot accept or give love except from another divorced person. A person who struggles with anger or lust cannot accept or give love except from another person who struggles with anger or lust. Do you know why? They are the only ones who understand that unconditional nature of love.
God allows sin that we would learn to love one another. If there were no sin, then the Pharisees would be right. You have to receive love unconditionally…before you can love unconditionally.
Love is Unmistakable
I don’t love because love is unmistakable. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Kierkegaard said that the Gospel cannot be heard…it must be overheard. That is profound and true.
Every time I refuse to reach out to my brother and sister in Christ, every time I refuse to forgive, every time I create walls that separate me from others, every time I refuse to love…the knowledge of the Gospel is lost. If that is true, then we should spend as much time loving one another as we do in being right.
Time to Draw Away
Read 1 Corinthians 13 & 1 John 4:7-21
How are you at love? How is God at love? Don’t get discouraged. The principle is this: you can’t love until you’ve been loved and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. So allow Jesus to love you deeply, unconditionally and without measure…and then you’ll have his love to give to others. When that happens, it changes everything.