POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2010:
Snapshots of God
A God of unconditional love
Almost every one of us has felt the heartbreak of love that was conditional.
Whether it was a marriage, a relationship, a friendship or family member, we have experienced the heartache associated with conditional love.
All you need to do is turn on the radio to any country station and immediately you will hear a myriad of songs that seem to resonate with the way you feel. Look at some of the classics like, "Achy Breaky Heart," "Whenever You Come Around," "Nothin' But The Taillights" and "How Do I Live?" They all have one thing in common: They understand pain. They have experienced heartbreak.
Pain, disappointment and heartbreak are universal languages. Start talking about pain and heartbreak and then listen to each person as they begin sharing their own personal experience.
Pain can be an easy story to tell because we've all experienced it. Love, however, can sometimes be difficult to describe.
If you asked a random crowd to begin to describe the characteristics of God you may eventually receive the answer, "love." It would probably take some time.
It's extremely difficult, however, to wrap your mind a God of unconditional love when we live in a world where love is usually conditional. We give love if we have received love. Love usually has limits. It's contingent on certain actions.
The word "love" has become so generic, overused and misused that I use it daily to describe the passionate desire I have for my wife and the barbeque sandwich I had for lunch. Hardly comparable.
So how can we truly wrap our minds around a God of "love" when all we have seen is love contingent on what we do?
For years, philosophers such as Aristotle attempted to arrive at a description of God through human reason. Most of these attempts displayed God as a vague, impersonal deity, who seemed rather distant and uninvolved.
God is relegated to a judge, a warrior, a distant creator, a strict disciplinarian, a guy with a list of rules, etc. God is up there looking down here with sense of disappointment.
There seems to be one consistent theme among many of these descriptions of God: Impersonal.
There's no doubt that throughout Scripture there are times when God is displayed as an all-powerful deity who is in control over everything. There are times where He is a warrior and sovereign over the earth. There are times where God is depicted on a mountain encircled in a cloud of glory while all the Israelites stand back in fear and awe. That's one picture of God.
That's just one story in a bigger, greater story of God's redemptive love. So many times we don't see the bigger story. We don't understand that the Bible is a bigger love story of God desperately trying to restore relationship with his prized creation, you and me.
We take our distorted views of God mix them with our past experiences of heartbreak and conditional love and create a picture of God that is rarely accurate.
We paint a picture of God out of our feelings of disappointment, failure, heartbreak and guilt. That's hardly fair and rarely accurate.
Even the disciples needed to adjust their picture of God. The Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2 begins "Our Father in heaven..."
The word "Father" in this passage is taken from the Aramaic word "Abba." A word that was used in the 1st century by Jewish children to address their human father. It was an intimate word that had connotations of running into the arms of a Father or Grandfather with complete confidence, regardless of your behavior or circumstance.
For the disciples this would have likely rocked their world. Jesus is telling them that he is not just Creator, he is also "daddy" who is intensely pursuing a personal relationship with YOU!
God is not relegated to our limited understanding of him nor does he fit within the box of our own comprehension. The same God who created the earth and will one day judge the world, is the same God who dwells inside those who are followers of Christ and desires deep, personal intimacy with each and every person. He is not either/or but both/and.
You can look at your life, your pain, and your heartache and dismiss this picture of God, or you can embrace a picture of God as Abba, a loving Father with arms wide open ready to embrace his most prized possession.
Your actions, your response, your pain does not change God's character. God is love. God is pursuing you. That will not change.
My prayer for you: I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
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