Saturday, April 25, 2015
Many people see church as a swap meet
When she came to us for counsel, I knew to keep a box of tissues ready because the tears were going to flow. Her psychiatrist told her that even though the years of emotional and violent abuse were over, her lack of self-worth would never be restored until she received all the love and affection that she had missed as a child. She was in desperate search of that affection, but no one could give her all she wanted or needed. “But doesn't Jesus say that perfect love casts out all fear?” she'd ask, believing she had to find that perfect someone with “perfect love,” to make her depression magically disappear.
It’s true that perfect love casts out all fear, but what is perfect love? Is it being coddled, pampered and agreed with all the time, having every whim fulfilled?
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, is what John 15:13 describes as perfect love. God laying down His life for us entailed spending time teaching, healing and exemplifying how we are now to live, and then giving His life in a brutal sacrifice for us all so that we could be free, healed and saved for eternity. But millions, if not billions of people around the world still live in fear and depression–does that mean His love isn't good enough?
The answer is that we need to start living out that love ourselves. Freedom from fear comes when we sacrifice our wills, our whims, our defense mechanisms and our controlling attitudes just because we love Him and are so thankful for what He’s done for us. Many people see church as a swap meet—they'll exchange some prayers and good behavior for a couple of blessings and a clean conscience. They degrade the God of perfect love to the level of a voodoo spirit that demands a few sacrificial items, a few incantations and a nice sum of money to grant the wish of the seeker. The God who laid down His life for us isn't looking to barter His blessings, He wants a relationship based on our own sacrificial love and devotion to Him.
When nothing on this earth holds our affections more than God, when we really are willing to do anything and go anywhere because He asks, even when it doesn't seem to make sense, then His perfect love starts to flow through our veins. We're not just passive recipients of His love, we're immersed in it. That’s when fear has no more hold on us, and neither does death, sin, curses or any evil.
Living in God’s perfect love means being vulnerable and tearing down our walls of comfort and protection, daring to believe that He is our protection now. Do you want to destroy your fears? Go against them and bare yourself before God. When it’s all said and done, those walls never protected you anyway, why not surrender control to God and live in His perfect love that drives out all fear.
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18 HCSB)