Loving God and loving others do not have to be in competition.
Today the famous author and speaker John Piper came to our school to speak in chapel. His emphasis and passions lie on the “supremacy of Christ.” He brought up some interesting questions. “What does it mean to be loved by God?” We usually explain the love of God with Us right in the middle of that. His point was that God’s love for us is not abut us but for Him, “His glory.” I’m still thinking about that one…
Despite the good points and awesome questions he brought up I still found myself exhausted and frustrated, thinking “why do I hate him so much.” There was one thing he said (and never allow one statement to ruin a whole sermon) that really, really bothered me.
Piper asked why we’re sending people to help with Katrina in New Orleans. He said “if you’re sending them to hell, comfortable on the way, you don’t love them.” He said “if you leave them without the “greatest treasure” then you do nothing for them. I hated those statements. Feeding the hungry has no spiritual significance, no eternal weight? Is helping people just some avenue we can use to indoctrinate people? What the hell is the “greatest treasure” anyway? Its Jesus isn’t it? Not dogma or theology. The ultimate treasure is Jesus, right? I thought it ironic that this whole sermon was about Jesus but to him the “greatest treasure” was “eternal life” disguised as Jesus. Something beautiful about Jesus is that He always meets physical needs before spiritual need. I always say if we offer Jesus to a hungry man without offering him bread what kind of Jesus are we offering? What treasure are we giving people in need if we do not meet their need? What kind of Jesus was piper offering?
I remember in a youth group I used to go to we were taught to use food as a way to evangelize, saying “I’ll buy you lunch if you listen to me about Jesus.” Yes, we bribed them. We used to put Bible verses on candy bars and hand them out. Yes, we were desperate to make a point.
If you remember, someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of God was. Now, remember this is in a culture very faithful to many, many commandments. It was in the Region called the Galilee, probably the most religious region in all the land. They understood Torah and revered it. When Jesus answers the question He does more than pick one He tells us what all the other commands are about. He says to love God and love others. These two things go hand in hand. They exist side by side, they’re interdependent. Why do we so often put them in competition? For Jesus how you love God is how you love people and how you love people is how you love God. Also in scripture it says that “God is love.” If God is love than does that mean that people who love are somehow in relationship with Him? Do you have to read the Bible to love or did God create us to do that? One of my professors Steve Gerali said in class the other day that our love for people flows out of our love for God. True. Does it not work the other way too? Does our love for people not flow or convert to love for God in some mysterious way at some point?
For Piper the deeds we do and the actions we live out have no eternal significance. For Piper we are alive to die and all that lasts forever is the decisions we make about Jesus. For piper Jesus is all about Jesus and has nothing to do with our physical wellbeing. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is here and now. Our physical wellbeing and our needs matter to Him, that is love. The way we live and the vigor of our love last forever.
It’s logical isn’t it? Why would something so pure as caring for the oppressed and the orphan and freeing the slave be so in vain? Why should beauty burn?
I realized why I was exhausted during chapel. I am so, so tired… God is so tired of competition between love for him and love for His people.
I refuse to live under a time deadline. I don’t think that it’s my responsibility to covert everyone to my way of thinking. I don’t think that I need to hurry. If anything I need to slow God.
“Be still and know that I am God”
I need to remember that God is God and I am not. I need to remember that God loves people so much more than I do and He wants them to be saved more than I do. The ultimate goal is not some event in the future like “rapture” or death. The goal is designed to be lived out NOW!
The greatest gift you can ever give to a hungry man is food.