Phil. 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Everyday is a battle for peace. On days when things are going my way, when there is a breakthrough at work or my wife and kids are happy and content, I have peace. On other days, for no apparent reason, I wake up with the world on my shoulders. Peace is nowhere to be found.
This is the kind of peace that is based on control and fear. It is peace based on our own understanding. The problem with this kind of peace is that it is elusive. It comes and goes like the tide. All it takes is one phone call or perhaps a look at your waistline and you are unsettled.
When our wife or partner is upset, we fear that we will lose them and we lose our peace. When we don’t hit our number at work we fear that we will be fired and so we begin a mad dash to get things under control. We strive to make things right in our own power. We continue doing this no matter what the cost until we have regained our temporary peace back.
People’s perceptions of us is one of the most cruel robbers of our peace. I counsel with so many people that seem like a dim phantom of who they are called to be due to fear of what others thinks. This is why some people who are true extroverts become painfully shy, forgoing their true identity because of fear. They have decided they will control other people’s perceptions by blending in, by becoming who they think people want them to be.
I know that I have fallen back into this type of peace when my mind becomes tense and I start reaching for things I can control. My usual plan of attack is to furiously clean the house or organize the bills or garage. The odd thing is that these usually have nothing to do with my loss of ballast, but still, they give me a sense of temporary control.
The peace that Jesus offers us is not based in any kind of control. Instead, Jesus says let me have control and I will give you a peace beyond understanding. This is the kind of peace that is content in all situations and allows others to live freely without the desire to control anything or anyone. I would argue that we are never called in God’s word to control anything other then ourselves. Instead we are to steward faithfully, but never control.
The word of God tells us that we are to derive no peace or satisfaction of mind from the world. Rather, our peace is to be found only in things that are unchangeable and eternal: God Himself. (2 Thess 3:16)
The only way to come to this type of peace is to begin a journey into God’s love. Remember that perfect love cast out all fear (1 John 4:18). We control and lose our peace for only one reason. That reason is fear. Whenever you are stressed, it is based in a fear. If you don’t believe me, the next time you find yourself stressed, stop and ask why. I am sure that you will find it has to do with some-thing you are afraid to lose. This could be another’s love of you or your temporary membership in the club of beautiful and respected people.
When we begin to accept that we are truly loved, and that God works all things together for our good and benefit (Romans 8:28) then we will begin to finally live in true peace. It is this type of peace that weather storms. It is this type of peace that lets you act our your life in love as opposed to fear. Acting out of this center is what finally allows our lives to become authentic.
I think I found the cure for divorce. Spend one morning at divorce court. This is what I did yesterday while standing as a character reference for one of our church members.
Ours was the last case of the day, so I got a chance to witness a number of emotional, spiritual and physical disasters unfold before me. While I am not sure what hell is actually like, I am sure that some of the elements that I witnessed yesterday will be part of the equation. This is the underbelly of human emotion and behavior.
One by one, spouse after spouse and parent after parent stood before a judge who now was in charge of decisions that were once theirs. Dollar amounts were being place on kids. This kid is worth this amount in support, another a higher amount because they took gymnastics lessons. Even virtual visits were being assigned.
The parties involved no longer communicated. Instead they were spoken to an for by their personal attorneys. I never saw one former couple make eye contact in my morning at the court. It was as if the space that their former partner encompassed was removed from the cosmic grid. They no longer existed.
What I found interesting was that there was also not a couple there who did not start their relationship in either passionate infatuation or determined “love”. Now they stood here as puppets of the system, being spoken for and to by intermediaries and worldly sovereigns. I really can’t describe how awful it was. It took me about a day to recover.
So what happened to love? Was true love ever present and if it was how is ths result possible. Is love really able to overcome all things? Can it overlook all things, or is this just biblical poetry.
1Cor. 13:10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1Cor. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
When I related this story to a friend yesterday, he told me with full confidence that if his wife or him were to commit adultery, that that they would not separate. I think I could say the same thing, but once again, I have never been or hope to be in that situation. Still, maybe this is the view we should all have.
What would unconditional love look like in a marriage? In the last couple of entries I talked about how we should have no “because” in our love. We should never love for any reason. If we do, then our love is based on a thing, and love then becomes a servant of that thing.
As I searched the scriptures, I stood corrected. We are to love because of one “because” and only one.
1John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
What this verse says is that God is the impetus of all our love. Since God himself is greater then love, then basing our love on God creates a foundation for love that supports it in all its trials. Thus, in order for love to supersede all things it needs to stand on a foundation great then itself. The question then to us in every arena in which we love is this, “Does this act of love find its only anchor in the person of God himself.”
This is why love conquers all. Love does not conquer all because of its innate essence as the thing called “love”, rather love perseveres because its very fuel is the fullness of God.
This is why Jesus says that divorce in certain situation is only because of human weakness. While it might seem trite, love can easily overcome a adulterous affair. Is not love infinite? Will sin not pass away. The answer is yes. For what seems a might hurdle to us, is childs play for God.
This is also why God can overlook any sin and send his only Son to die for us. It is because of a fantastical love that flows from a source of infinite power and ability. That source is God Himself.
Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So I have continued to have this discussion about God’s love with a host of close friends. What comes up most is the question of how our worth is then determined in the view of God. What makes us valuable to God.
The answer to that is “Choice”. While I am not loved by God because of any thing or innate value of my own, I am of unimaginable and immeasurable worth due to God’s Choice.
The fact that God chose (from within love) to create me in His image is one of many reasons that I have for finding a favorable view of myself in Him. Another is the fact that God sent His son to die for me. That reason alone, the fact that Jesus was willing to die for me and call me His chosen is where I find my worth.
The key here is that this worth is based on nothing I have done. All of it comes from the impetus of God’s choice. Because of this, we as believers are eternally anchored in His favor.
The distinction that has made the most impact on my way of living is when I based my understanding of God’s favor on a “because” which found its anchor in my merit, the feeling of God either being pleased with me in the present moment was tied to how I was performing. On days my walk was closer to my understanding of God’s requirement for holy living, the happier and more fully accepted I felt. If another day I did some act of unkindness, I would feel removed from God’s pleasure and acceptance until I made the relationship right with Him.
God’s favor of me is not tied to my feeble understanding or ability to walk in closer accordance to His words (the bible) calling. No matter how I perform, I am always accepted and approved of by God. Romans 8’s assurance of our freedom from any condemnation affirms this.
Let’s get back to the human relational out workings of this. When we decide to marry a person, it is not because we love them. I know that we think it is, but it is really just a choice. I married my wife not because I love her, but because she was the best choice for me. That choice was based on all kinds of “because”. I married her “because” she is a beautiful and amazing individual full of talent and kindness. This though is not why I love her. I love her for no reason other then God has called me to love her regardless. My love for her then is displayed in the “choice” I made to covenant with her. This is why we say “for better or for worse” when we get married. Love is based on no thing. Her performance in the marriage or my possible waning emotional state has nothing to do with how I love her. I love her no matter what.
This is why it is impossible to fall out of love. Instead, one person in the relationship has decided they no longer chose to be in relationship with their partner because of a “thing” or lack of a desired “thing”. What is really happening is that the person if falling out of affection with the other person. They are no longer being affected in the way they wish, and a state of emotional distance develops. Many divorce for this reason. Be assured that this is not love. Love conquers all these obstacles (1 Cor: 13). That is why it will be only one of three (Faith, Hope and Love) that remain. As we know, the greatest of these is love.
Let’s again look at God. The good news is this. You can never leave God’s love. If you are in Christ, you are the within the center of His great love. You can rest. There is nothing you can do that will separate you from that love. Besides that, you are also eternally favored due to His decision of you.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18
Brennan Manning devastated me this week. It happened when reading “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus”. Manning makes the statement, “God’s love is based on nothing at all, and that is what makes us secure.”
There were two initial reactions that immediately arose within me. The first was the demand to be loved “because”. I want to be loved for some innate value of my own. Is this not what we are all driving for in this world. Every one of us wants to be set apart from the rest, to be the top of the heap. We yearn for a loveableness (my word) based on our own worth. We want to be loved “because” we are kind or sexy or smart or fashionable. Whatever it is that gives us worth is what we want. One look at modern media will show you that the world and those in it are striving to determine their worth by who they are or what they do. They are selling their souls for the right to be loved. And for this reason, something inside of me wanted to reject any love that loves valuelessly (my word).
Over the last few days I have asked family and friends if they would ever want to be married to someone who loved them for no reason. Would you really want a lover who did not love them because of some uniqueness they possessed? In each case those answering said that this idea of love made them feel insecure. They wanted to be loved “because”. If there is no reason behind love, then why would one stay? Why would one keep loving. What would make them special and set apart? What would keep their spouse from equally loving another?
As I pondered these thoughts, I felt a knocking at the door of my heart. A wave of peace seemed to be present and available if I was only willing to accept my own worthlessness. It is a great burden to be carrying the weight of your own self-conceived worth. Worth based on personal merit needs always be replenished. It needs always be tended. It needs always be nurtured and heaped upon. The satisfaction of worth that comes because of some “thing” we do or possess is a fleeting and elusive love.
When we base our love on a reason, love is always in jeopardy. Merit filled love can never be trusted. It is the most unfaithful of loves. Lose the merit and you lose the love.
When we begin to define ourselves as those who are worthlessly loved, we will for the first time set foot on the trail of authenticity. For the first time ever we will be able to stop with all our comparing and strivings. We can then and only then step out of the storm. For then and only then will we know love.
This type of love is beyond the human condition. It is a love reserved only for God and those of His affection. God’s love is encapsulated in a vacuum free of the contaminants of merit, production, striving, positional authority and worldly aspiration. It is a pure love that loves for loves sake. It is based on nothing but love itself and pays dues to no “thing”.
This is the perfection of love that the scripture speaks about. This is the kind of love we are called to have. This is the love of God.