Wrath or Love – by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from February 2018
The nature of God – who he is, and how he is – is without doubt the most misunderstood topic within all of Christendom. If God is filled with wrath and retribution, then any number of Christ-less teachings and practices make sense – but God IS NOT wrath. God IS love.
Love is the one-word definition of God. God is love, he is not filled with wrath, therefore:
- God the Father was not looking for payback from God the
Son on the cross;
- There is no such thing as eternal conscious torment in hell;
- God is not mad at you and me, and
- God does not expect us to do the impossible, which would be to earn and deserve his love.
This is the month when Valentine’s Day is celebrated – and it is the month when many Christians around the world focus on the life of Jesus, who came to serve and give himself for us. Let us turn our attention to love – most specifically let us turn our attention to God’s love, an incredible gift given to us by his grace. One of the many shocks of married life is when a husband or wife (hopefully both arrive at the conclusion at about the same time) discover most of what they knew about love when they were first married was erroneous and flawed.
Young people are indoctrinated, from movies to music, to believe in love as a shallow, empty, short-lived emotion based on feelings alone – when and if they hear about the enduring, never-ending love of God that flows like an unending river, they have been subtly trained to believe that such a love is silly, illogical and impractical.
Young people are taught (and let’s not leave older folks out – they are taught the same concepts, and sadly, age does not always overcome youthful delusions) that love can be fallen into and fallen out of. We are taught that love is measured by our own happiness – while we are taught to love and serve others, most of all we are taught to love me, myself and I.
But God’s love is not “You make me happy, you make me feel good, you give me what I want… therefore I love you.” That’s not loving someone else – that’s you loving you. God’s love is not based on making us happy (or us making him happy) – it’s not based on feelings – it’s not based on satiating human senses. God’s love is not one big romantic, emotional trip with candles being lit, violins playing and rose petals being thrown into the wind.
God’s love says: “I know all there is to know about you and I still love you anyway.”
God’s love says: “I am going to love you forever – you can’t make me stop loving you.”
God’s love says: “Nothing you can do, positively or negatively, can make me love you more or less than I already do. My love does not depend on what you do or fail to do.”
The kind of love that a man and woman have for each other that is pumped into our brains and hearts by our society, by our media and our music, and yes, even by many of our churches – is conditional love. We have been brainwashed into believing we are loved as long as we can be who and what the object of our “love” wants us to be. That’s conditional love – and it’s absolutely the opposite of the love taught in the Bible.
Two humorous examples come to mind that unmask the shortlived, self-centered feelings/needs/desires that masquerade as “true” love in our culture:
- A comic strip depicts a soldier reading a letter from the girl he left behind. She wrote:
“Dear John, As you sit out there in your foxhole in the desert, trying to stay alive, fighting a life or death battle every day, my heart goes out to you….”
The next and final frame of the comic strip displays the remaining part of that sentence:
“…the rest of me goes to Jimmy’s Country and Western Dance every Saturday night.”
- A woman received this letter from a man who dumped her, ending their engagement on the very day of their wedding:
“Dear Lisa, No words can express the sorrow and unhappiness I have caused myself (and of course you as well) with my stupid decision to end our engagement – on the very day we were to be married! Over the last six months since then I have cried myself to sleep every night about my really dumb decision. Please say you will take me back. Please forgive me. I love you! I love you!
P.S. Congratulations! I heard you won the lottery last week.”
Many of the Old Testament prophets not only delivered a prophetic message, they also acted out, like an actor on a stage, the message God directed them to deliver and proclaim. God assigned Hosea the role of marrying a woman who had been a prostitute.
At some point in their marriage, Gomer, Hosea’s wife, left him and their three children – degrading herself and humiliating her husband by returning to her profession of selling her body. When Gomer’s depraved life left her diseased, wasting away and barely alive she was offered for sale at a slave auction. God told Hosea to go to the slave auction and buy back his former wife.
When the auctioneer shouted “What am I offered for this woman named Gomer?” there was an awkward silence. No one wanted this bedraggled, sickly, used and abused woman cowering before them on the auction block.
And remember, while Gomer had her own set of inherited dysfunctions, as we all do, we cannot cast Gomer as a complete victim.
She may have been what today is called a “sex addict” – but whatever her motivation or obsession, the Bible indicates that Gomer made a decision to reject hearth and home – she walked away from being a wife and a mother to walk on the wild side.
When Hosea’s voice booms out “I will buy her,” it is not the voice of Hosea we hear, it is the voice of our loving, gracious and forever forgiving heavenly Father. This entire drama is all about the no-matter-what love of God – a love offered and given to us in-spite-of the way we have behaved – in-spite-of how we have turned our back on him.
God doesn’t love us because of our perfection. He doesn’t love us because of the endless ways in which we make him happy and how we provide for him. God loves us anyway.
Jesus didn’t show up at our slave auction because we deserved his love – he didn’t show up because we had earned the right for him to shower us with his love. He didn’t show up because of our dazzling beauty – he bought us with his precious blood when we were dirty, abused and abandoned, when nobody else wanted us.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven,
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. – Luke 9:51
Jesus knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem, but he resolutely set out for Jerusalem anyway. He did so because of the love of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for ALL humanity. He went to his Cross because of love.
God’s love for you and me is resolute, relentless, unwavering and unshakable. God’s love for you and me is not subject to feelings or momentary flights of fancy. God’s love is not based on how well we measure up. God’s love is a rock. Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
God loves us, always and forever, no matter what – that’s what Jesus showed on his Cross in Jerusalem. During this time of the year, we resolutely set out for Jerusalem with Jesus as we pick up our cross and follow him.
During this time of the year, we are reminded of his suffering and his sacrificial love – reminded and refreshed with and about the matchless and supreme love of God, showered upon us by his grace.
With thanksgiving for you – with love for you – as my fellow Partners and Friends in this ministry, as my brothers and sisters in Christ,