There is so much talk these days of God’s Love. Many people, both professing Christians and non-Christians alike, often state, and sometimes emphatically state, that God is Love. And without question, it is both fact and truth that He is Love; thus absolutely essential for the Christ follower to share and profess. Love is one of God’s perfect and unchangeable attributes that make up His being; who He is. Anyone who has been around people who profess Christ long enough will find out very quickly that when it comes to talking about God, that talking about His Love is a given. And one would think with how much we talk about it, that out of all the things that we in our humanness mess up about God, His Love wouldn’t be one of them. But unfortunately, in the post-modern 21st century, it may actually be one of the most misunderstood and even watered-down doctrines/truths about God that there is. When one reads that they are tempted to think something like: “You’re right, we cannot fathom how much and how great His Love is for us.” And while that is true, it is a bit cliché and not what I am talking about. What I am referring to is actually quite fathomable but these days simply not talked about enough. God’s Love as our heavenly Father is a Love that runs deep…A fatherly love that is perfect and flawless. Yet, the current trend in so many Christian circles is not to try and better understand that perfect Love but instead diminish it. Put it into a box to make it what we want it to be; to make it more palatable. What on earth am I talking about? Well, let me share a bit of who I am that will help paint a pretty good picture of what I am referring to.
For those who may not know my story, I grew up and was raised without a father. This, as you might expect, had a profound affect on me growing up. But perhaps the greatest affect it had on me came during my teenage years. Like most young men, I began to physically grow and mature and wanted to venture out and do my own thing, and have all the freedoms of manhood without any of the responsibilities or consequences. My mother tried with everything in her to restrain my rebellion but it got to the point where physically I was just going to stand in defiance and disrespect to her authority. I lived a life bent on stubbornness and absolute disobedience. I lived the street life and ended up becoming a little juvenile thug. It is a time in my life that I don’t like to look back upon too often. Yet I know and understand that it is only when we visit the places of the past that it helps us to understand how we got to where we are, and also the place where God is taking us. Examining our experiences can give us perspective on how God uses events in our lives to teach us truths about who He is.
For me, when I look back at those teenage years, I see so clearly how much I was in need of the love of a father. A father who would have loved me enough, to have been there to show me that living as a man takes more than just going through puberty. A father who when he saw me standing in the sin of defiance and rebellion would’ve loved me enough to give me a good butt kicking. That’s right I said it. So many times people during my life at that time try to psycho analyze me about why I was the way I was, but the reality is I was just in stubborn defiant sin and needed my butt kicked by my father. Only problem was, was that he wasn’t there to do it. I sometimes have thought about how my life would’ve turned out had I had that kind of love present in my life. How much different would have things turned out for me? How much more time would I have spent on not dealing with stupid life choices that a good old kick in the butt by my father would have helped me avoid? In an ideal world it would have been nice to have that kind of love present in my life, but it was not to be. I know God used the experiences and has redeemed them to bring me to the place where I am at. But my point is more about understanding the love that a father gives.
So in light of that, when thinking about the perfect Love from our Heavenly Father it must be understood that, that Love will always include discipline and chastisement. Yet when you talk or refer to God in such a way nowadays people say you are painting a picture of an unloving judgmental God and resort to a gospel of fluff. “God is Love” becomes a God who only hugs and never disciplines. There are many reasons for this and I could get into them, but that is not what this blog post is about. It is not about the reasons why we have gotten to where we are, but rather just to understand the love of the Father. And for me nothing illustrates this truth better than the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, verses three through eleven:
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.’
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
I never had the discipline of my earthly father and therefore cannot respect him for the discipline I never received from him. I do, however, know how it affected my life not having it present in my childhood. So for me personally, nothing illustrates the Love of the Father better than His chastisement and discipline because it was something at the most crucial time in my life, I never received from my earthly father. And when I feel the Lord is disciplining me for sins that I struggle with, in the moment it is not something pleasant, but I am grateful that momentary discomfort will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. It shows me that I am not an illegitimate son and that He is chastising me so I may share in His holiness. Without His discipline and chastisement we would not be truly loved by Him. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone he accepts as a son or a daughter.
God is Love. Him as Love is the perfected definition of love itself. And that love is not shallow or superficial. It is a love that runs deep. Too deep to leave us alone as we are without stern discipline and correction. God loves and cares about you and I too much for that. He is our Heavenly Father and will lovingly discipline and correct us, gently rebuke us as His children, and then forgive and restore us with that hug that so many people nowadays love to talk about, letting us know that He has disciplined us because He Loves us.