Relationship Theology: Part Two

 

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If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.   (1 Cor. 13:1-3 NRS)

If we accept the revelation that God is love and that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) then the foundation of our lives, our core nature, should be love. However, when we look at our world and perhaps, even our own lives, love does not seem to be the main motivator unless it is a perversion of love that comes from selfishness.

The word love has been adapted to many usages in our culture today. I believe from my study that true relationship love needs three elements to be understood. First, love must have a commitment and desire to be with (spend time) with the one you love. Distance and time do not make the heart grow fonder. If you love someone, you want to spend time with them. God did not create humanity to be distant from them. If there is a distance it is we who have created it.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps. 145:18 NRS)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (Rom. 10:8 NRS)

In both the Old and New Testament the Scripture continuously reveals God’s desire to be with us and for us to desire the presence of God. This is why religion that does not promote practices that emphasize seeking God and being with God is likely a false faith. Relationship require work, attention, and presence. When God is relegated to a place of ritual or social convenience this relationship suffers.

I recently walked up to the doors of death. Now whether what I experienced was simply a creation of my damaged mind or is a memory God has allowed me to keep is up for question.  In this experience there was a struggle for my soul. This struggle only took place because I had allowed my relationship with my Lord to slip into the category of convenience. I had only been giving lip service to One through whom my whole being rested. I am convinced in my taking my relationship with God for granted I opened the door to a demonic obsession that nearly killed me.

Again, true love requires the maintenance of a desire to be with the one you love.

I will discuss the next two key elements of love in my next post.

 

Relationship Theology: Post One

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The post today is the beginning of a series concerning a topic I have been working on for quite some time. The topic is Relationship Theology and seeks to utilize the disciples of classic theology, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, sociology, and psychology to understand and explain God’s providential will and purpose for humanity.

In the beginning of the book of Genesis there is recorded the story of creation. I believe the purpose of this story is not to give us a scientific explanation of how but instead to give us a reason why. Note the following statement in this story.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; (Gen. 1:26 NRS)

In the Hebrew language, the grammar for the word “make” indicates a future intent, an uncompleted action yet to be fulfilled. The Greek translation (the Septuagint) uses a word in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is for expressing wishes, suggestions, or desires.

The story of creation is a story of a beginning relationship that joins with an eternal relationship well established beyond the confines of time and space. It is the beginning of our relationship with God. A relationship God desires.

In the Psalms we find the psalmist stating: Psalm 8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Ps. 8:4 NRS). I believe the psalmist also implies, “Why do people matter so much to you God?” Any relationship we have is built on a foundation of some sorts. Why did God create us? What is the foundation for this relationship?

The Scripture (especially the Scripture the Holy Spirit lead the Apostle John to write) states to us the nature of God is love. John writes, in 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”(1 Jn. 4:8 NRS), and 1 John 4:16,”So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 Jn. 4:16 NRS) John (by the power of the Holy Spirit) makes it clear that if we are to be in a true relationship with God, the love is the defining factor. God created humanity out of love for the purpose of love. If this is true, then our theology must operate with the definition and boundaries of love.

But what is love and what are its boundaries? These are the questions we must address next.

 

A Different View of Covid-19

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In understanding God’s purpose for humanity in our Christian tradition, we often refer to the dialogue in the book of Matthew:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
(Matt. 22:36-40 NRS)

If Jesus were walking the streets of the hot zones in our American cities would he see the concept of loving our neighbors as ourselves being lived out or ignored by the majority of people? Is it a loving act to deliberately not to wear a mask to protect the health of others or should we be disgusted by the perceived limitations to our personal freedoms? It is a loving act to gather in groups without regard to the dangers of the covid-19 virus or should our own convenience and comforts take priority?

I do not believe God allowed the covid-19 virus to be unleased as a punishment, but I wonder about the general revelation this virus and the pandemic presents to us. What has this virus revealed about the spiritual nature of America?

Which is more loving, to try and continue a comfortable lifestyle or to be satisfied with our daily bread in order that others might live as well? Which is more loving, being willing to pay more taxes in order to provide a better a social safety net to those who have lost jobs and are struggling to have a place to live or to focus on our own desires and possessions?

The more I think about what the covid-19 virus reveals about the condition of our country, the more I wish people would seek to make America good rather than to seek America to be great.