11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
~ John 15:11-15 The Message
If I have a very fuzzy idea about how God loves, it makes sense that I would have trouble figuring out how to love the way he loves me. I had no frame of reference for a gentle, unconditional, joyful loving relationship. My relationships mostly seemed conditional, hinging on my capacity to please the person whose love I desperately desired. I often felt like there was some love system that I was trying to game in order to trick someone into caring about me.
When I read the Old Testament I was confused by this God who scorched cities wiping dens of inequity. Don’t misunderstand, these folks seemed to deserve what they got - but where did that leave me on the spectrum of God smiting? God gave David power to slay Goliath but couldn’t seem to keep David from committing adultery and shockingly killing his faithful servant Uriah (his paramour’s husband) to hide his affair. God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden (I failed to notice that he went with them). Joseph, a godly guy if a bit naive when he tells his brothers that he learned in a dream that he would one day rule them seems to suffer all sorts of unfair treatment. Is this how God loves? Does God really protect his beloved? Or are we all unworthy of being loved unless someone does something radical - like maybe dying on a cross - to save our sorry asses? Are we really so intrinsically broken? Are we all bad to the bone? I only had to read the book of Job to fuel my doubts about whether even God could love me without me ending up battered and bruised. After all, look what happened to Job, a righteous man. Even he got kicked in the gut. And I was no Job.
There was this sentence in John, I learned it in the King James translation, “Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends.” Ok, so I am supposed to love large, I thought. I am supposed to be willing to die for my friends.
This put me in codependent territory - a land where we pay more attention to the needs of others than we do to our own needs. This intuitively felt “off” to me. I struggled with the concept. It turns out this struggle was valuable.
Do you ever feel confused by God’s love commands? What trips you up?
To be continued…