Love Costs . . .

I heard a chairman of a religion department announce once, at a foreign policy meeting, that “the only valid relationship is an economic one.” His comment shocked me, coming from a man who had spent his life pursuing the study of God. He never explained it, and I wrote him off as another socialist, from a university given to actively subverting values in the culture.

I’m older now, and a lot wiser. And, in the years since, I’ve seen hundreds of “religious” people put an economic value on their capacity to love. They limit their love to their natural children (vs the adopted ones), family members, spouses, or to ‘worthy’ folks in the same ethnic, racial, economic, social, or age group.

I’ve even seen missionaries who have said to the Lord, “We will spend two years in missions, but then we’re leaving unless we get pregnant.” EXCUSE ME??? How can you give a God who loves you unconditionally an ultimatum? “Do this or I’m outta here!” Our collective arrogance shocks me, even now.

And I’m not pointing fingers or posturing ‘innocence’ either. For years, I said to the Lord, “Yo–You gave me these feelings,  so live with what I do with them.” Or, “I’ll come back to you when I’m too old to feel this way. Right now my hormones are raging.” For years, I justified irritation, rage, sexual promiscuity, etc as just the natural expression of my character, enticed or provoked by life, people, or my own body. That was a really stupid time for me. Learn from my stupidity.

I have to tell you, I never would have been freed of any of those behaviors by myself. I tried. No amount of good will, effort, self-discipline, or avoidance gave me victory. It won’t help you either.

The only thing that has ever freed me is desperate prayer. Yeh, that’s right, prayer. Not mouthing pious platitudes, not mumbling incantations, not even quoting scripture. (Yeh, He said even the devil quotes scripture.) One day, in the throes of yet another temptation to sin, I cried out to Him, “Father, I can’t fight this by myself, please rescue me, and remove this temptation from me!”

That was the beginning of my moments of victory. The temptations have never completely gone away–in some cases they actually did disappear, in others they lessened in intensity. But in every moment of temptation now, I pray, “Father help me overcome this–take it away, distract me, help me find victory,” and He does–every time, with every temptation.

But it takes active cooperation on my end–asking, accepting, then moving on to something more productive. Sin is like any other addiction–but because Jesus has already gained the victory over all its forms, we can experience victory  too–if we rest our frail and flawed characters in His capable hands.

Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.  No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. (1 Corinthians 10:15-18a)

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