Living as the Loved (Or, Why Legalism and Liberalism Both Miss the Mark)
Just as birds were made to fly, our Creator made us to be loved.
Wait, that’s it? Seems so simple. It can’t possibly be that easy.
I mean, to be fully loved means to be seen with all my spots and warts and sins and glaring character deficiencies and moments when I’m so locked into myself I don’t even care whom I hurt or how I hurt them.
There’s gotta be judgment somewhere, right?
I just saw The Shack movie tonight. The Shack book is one of my favorites–right up there with Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years–and the film didn’t disappoint.
There’s something that’s said in the film that’s downright scandalous: “Sin is its own punishment” or something like that, as spoken by Papa (God the Father).
That’s going to ruffle a lot of feathers. You can already start to hear the critical crescendo from within the Church as folks decry a lack of accountability and justice in the discourse. Where’s the mention of Hell? Where’s the biblical depiction of consequence for sin?
Is it bad that I didn’t miss those things?
Certainly, I think those are important topics to discuss. I think Jesus died FOR us, and He saved us not just from ourselves, but from a forever without Him (aka Hell).
I get why people worry about focusing just on the love of God. We live in a world where a lot of really bad behavior is applauded and even encouraged, and in some cases, even smoothed out under the guise of God’s love.
The people who worry about focusing on the love of God say that there’s no room for error in our world if God continues to pour out His love. All things are permissible, although not all things are beneficial, right? The danger, of course, becomes that by embracing things that God knows will hurt us, that we’ll actually be living outside of love under 0the banner of having God love us.
I mean, it’s true, but it’s not God’s heart for His kids.
Neither is blunt legalism and, yeah, religion. Like the movie/book said, “Religion? That’s too much work.”
Living as people who are loved is a different thing than having a safety net of God’s affections, a different thing than having a clenched fist of moral fidelity.
Living as people who are loved means having a deep, abounding knowledge that not only are you loved, but that you can trust the person who loves you, and that you hang on every lifegiving word they say. That’s way different, right?
The tree Adam and Eve ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Think about it: they didn’t even KNOW about evil! It existed! But they weren’t aware of its existence, and that was totally OK. They just lived in the garden, totally and utterly loved, face-to-face with their Creator.
That’s why I’m OK not dwelling on sin and Hell. They’re important–yes!–but they aren’t the most important. I guarantee that’s not what’s most important to God. What He wants is relationship with His kids. He wants to be face to face, in a trust relationship where He unfolds the wrinkled images of His kids into something that looks more like Him.
And when that happens, we don’t WANT to sin. We aren’t checking a list of what to do and not to do; we’re captivated people who have a relationship that we don’t want to step away from in any measure.
It requires us to TRUST. It requires us to YIELD. It requires us to, at the end of the day, look at our lives and ask, “Where have I NOT let God have His loving influence?”
I think our problem is that, as a people–maybe even as humanity–we’re not loved well by each other, and thus have injured our capacity to receive love from our Creator. We get it from our parents and that kid in the third grade and our bad teachers and bosses and that guy who flipped you off in traffic.
Authority figures have shown less than honorable motivations at times, and even people in the Church have given us reason not to trust motives.
That’s not God. That’s His imperfect messengers–and some other folks who aren’t even really His messengers.
We can claim God’s love, or claim God’s justice, and yet not know Him–or really trust Him–at all. That’s how we get hung up on policing behavior or justifying behavior, rather than doing our most important work–working on KNOWING God, truly internalizing His love, because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to engage in a reactionary response of gratitude!
Great. Now to apply it…