Evil . . and love?

Evil and love never go together.  There is no common ground, no tolerance of each other, and no compromise.

But here is probably the most puzzling thing about the human condition.  We are capable of both evil and love.  So what does that mean?  Can evil be loving?  Can love be evil?

I used to watch movies that I wouldn’t want to see now.  In one of them, a hitman who seems to be a lunatic for killing–meaning he has no conscience whatsoever about shooting anyone he’s paid to kill–is pushing through a crowd with a gun in his hand, trying to catch the next man on his list.  I wondered something pretty strange as I watched this.

Why doesn’t he just kill the people as he’s going through the crowd?

After all, if he simply shot through the people, he could most likely kill his target much easier.  Why not just pick off twenty or thirty of them, since they clearly didn’t matter to him?

In a very tiny way, this hit man did seem to have a shred of love left in him.  When it was just as (or even more) convenient to kill those in the way as to spare them, he chose to spare them.

There are strange mixes like this throughout our world.

After all, what causes murderers to live together in prison without trying to kill each other every second?  Many murderers play cards together, eat meals together, and smoke together.  Certainly there is violence in prisons–but it isn’t every second.

Or what about the con artist who rips off the elderly, convincing them to sign over their social security check?  Why doesn’t this same charlatan plot ways to murder the elderly and steal their estates, too?

I’m using extreme examples–but there are ones that hit closer to home.

How can a close friend can lose his temper and say something cruel . . or how can a family can place a great-grandparent in a nursing home and visit only every few Christmases . . or how a child can blame something on a younger sibling she usually protects?

–And it’s not just that we keep from doing the worst evil because there are laws.  Even if there wasn’t a law against it, at least some of us wouldn’t beat up our family members . . kill a friend . . sell a brother or sister into slavery.  And even the people who would do these things would still have some restraint.  We are not death machines.  I don’t know of anyone trying to kill every person (s)he ever met.  But why?

We were created to love and be loved.

Love is so deeply a part of the image of God we have been made in that even the worst characters in history show His image.

Hitler was a monster, but he did not torture his wife, nor did he seek to annihilate all German people.  He was not fully withdrawn from love because he was made in the image of God.  This sounds horribly offensive–but please listen carefully to what I’m saying.  I am not saying Hitler was somehow excused for his actions because he was made in God’s image or because he still had traces of love.  Actually, it is these very truths that condemn him to Hell.  Because he was made in God’s image, he had a capacity to love.  But he chose to live by an opposite force.  He chose to live by evil.

The opposite of love isn’t hate.  It’s evil.

People who choose to resist love and who desire evil ultimately get what they ask for: they go to a place where there is no love, only evil.  That place is Hell.

The worst thing that can happen to a person is not to burn in Hell.  It is to have the image of God removed from his or her soul.  God does not live with evil and He ultimately removes evil from His Presence and the presence of His people.  To live without God is to live without His image within us–it is to live without love.

The worst thing that can ever happen to us is not that we lose our 401ks, are the last person alive in the world, are even locked in a dungeon forever.  The worst thing that can ever happen to us is to lose God’s image.

We are not human without God’s image.  Humanity was created in His image.  There is no creation of humanity without His image.  To be without His image is to cease to be human.  But, far worse, it is to cease to be loved or love.  While humans may not be the only beings created with love (angels, for example, most likely know how to love), any ability to love is completely tied to being created by God.  Being made in His image is an extraordinary, over-the-top gift that empowers us with an extraordinary, over-the-top ability to love.

There is a sense of “loving” that can be attributed to evil: loving evil.  But this love is not love in the sense that God shows love.  This love is the “love” of Satan.  It is false love.  It is drawn to something and admires it, but it is not God’s love.  False love is self-seeking, like the father of false love, who wanted to be more important and powerful than he already was.

But what about us?  Well, right now, God is tolerating our misuse of His image.  He is patient with us, not removing His image from us before death.  By keeping His image on us, He is protecting us from killing each other off within one generation, because we do have restraint in how much evil we show.

God is giving us time to repent.  We have traded in the freedom of His love for the slavery of evil; but He has bought back our freedom with His blood.  If we repent and turn to Christ, He will teach us the way of love again.  If we do not, we will one day live without His image in a loveless, loveless eternity.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)

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Jesus’ Prayer

The hour was dark.  Time, slipping away.  Jesus would soon be betrayed by one of His own friends, abandoned by all His followers.  But rather than pray for vindication, He prayed for light.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17:1b-3, NLT)

Jesus is incredible.

Father, the hour has come.

  • He knows He is going to give His life for our sins.

Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.

  • He will be glorified and His Father will be brought glory because of His priceless gift to humanity.

For you have given him authority over everyone.

  • Jesus has the right to forgive sins.  He has total power to give eternal life to who He wishes.

And this is the way to have eternal life

  • Jesus could have created an exclusive club.  In fact, He had every right to do so.  He is the one who paid for our sins.  He can choose who is saved.  But here’s one of the most astonishing things about Jesus: He doesn’t hide the invitation to eternal life.

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

  • These two things that we must know to have eternal life are not separate, but as seamless as two drops of water.  We must know

the only true God

  • Because if we serve any other god, we are merely idolaters.  All other gods, whether the wooden kind, or the kind that thirst for money or swell with pride or resist admitting to sin, are plain old horrible trash that will one day be burned.

and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

  • There is no access point to the Father except Jesus Christ.  We can by no other way have knowledge of Him or experience the eternal life that would follow.  Jesus’ Father is by nature so holy that to see Him in our sinner’s state would be to die.  Only because Jesus came to us as a human without glory were we able to look upon God’s holiness without perishing.  (At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest disciples got a glimpse of the glory Jesus gave up for us.  Now He has been given glory upon glory in Heaven, as He will be revealed in the Second Coming.)

At His worst time, knowing He was very soon going to be abandoned, alone and tortured, Jesus still wasn’t distracted from loving us, revealing Himself to us, and rescuing us.

Not even for a moment.

This is the prayer of Christ: out of His own suffering, He builds for us a stairway to Heaven.

There can be nothing so awe-inspiring as the love of God.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11, NLT)

Just when it looked like

Just when it looked like Satan had won . . . . . . . . . . . Jesus rose from the grave.

This is Jesus.

In His teaching, He destroys all human hierarchies, all caste systems, all power trips.  He turns over the tables of hypocrisy and heals the helpless.  He comes to embrace each of us with a one-on-one love.  The divine hug of grace is found in the manger that first Christmas night; the greatest kiss of mercy is found at the cross.  He lowers Himself from Heaven to fallen earth to lonely grave.  He buys us for the most terrible price, He saves us with the most painful rescue, He frees us with a love so epic that not even the greatest fiction writing can touch it.

This is Jesus.

He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
his death on the cross.

(Philippians 2:8, GNT)

Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One of the Scriptures I read about a month before committing my life to Christ

“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Romans 8:12-14, Message)

Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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If I know

A quote from Hermann Hesse fits perfectly what I would say on a Christmas card to God.

From: Saved

To: Savior

“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” –Hermann Hesse

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a, NIV)

To be pursued

For the man who pursued me . . Dearheart, thank you.

The Pursuit

There is one scene in chick flicks I could watch over and over and over again.

Ok, there are a lot of scenes in chick flicks I could watch over and over and over again.  But I want to talk about just one.

It’s where the guy runs after the girl.

She may be in a car, on a boat, in a train, or on a plane, but he’s running after her.

He’s running for all he’s worth, chasing whatever the going-faster-than-him thing she’s taking to get away from him is.  The relationship is over, it’s done, they’re history, and she’s given up.

But he’s running.

And every chickie girl in the theater is screaming in her heart for him to run faster.

I’m one of those chickie girls.

You know those movies where a guy is running and cars are chasing him and guns are shooting at him?  That is nothing like the suspense a true-blue chick flick can have on a girl’s heart.

RUN!  RUN!!!!!  RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  CATCH HER!  CATCH HER!!!!!!!!!

It’s an obligation of chickiehood to cheer him on.

In the end, you know how the story goes.  He jumps on a motorcycle, or a speedboat, or one of those little cart thingies that usually takes luggage to the airplane but can go super fast when a guy is wanting to catch a girl.  Or he just runs faster, waves his arms, and yells.

And the girl does not hear him.  She does not see him.

She has headphones on, or she’s talking to someone, or she’s napping, or she’s texting.  She’s doing something, but what she’s not doing is looking at him.  She doesn’t even notice.

LOOK!  LOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It would be socially awkward for me to stand up on the theater seat and throw popcorn at the screen to try to get her attention, so I don’t.  But my soul itches for her to look.

So he runs harder.  The motorcycles revs.  The speedboat goes into another gear.  The cart thingy flies down the runaway at jet speed.

And he’s yelling now at the top of his lungs, waving his arms, staring as intently as he can at her.

But she does not hear him.  She does not see him.

She keeps chewing gum, or reading a magazine, or crying into a handkerchief.

And now it doesn’t matter if it’s socially awkward or not.  Popcorn must be thrown at the movie screen.  And cell phones.  And shoes.  Anything to get her attention.

But this is a battle that the brave man must fight, and fight he does.  As the chickies in the audience dab at their hearts with the handkerchief of hope, something miraculous happens.

His heart bursting inside him, he runs like a NASCAR.  His motorcycle cuts through the road like a mower through grass.  His speedboat slices through the water like a knife through jello.  His cart thingy beats the plane to the end of the runway.

And at last–at last!–she sees him.

This is the reason we chickies paid the $8 (or more) for the ticket.  This is the big moment.

She sees him.  And the plane or train or taxi or boat or rocket ship stops.  And there’s this second of suspense.  And then she comes running out and he opens his arms to her and picks her up and they kiss.

And we chickies don’t remember what happens after that nearly so much, because this was the part we were waiting for.

That was it: to see him pursue her.

That was why we watched the movie.

That is what I long for in the depths of my heart, and that’s what chick flicks market to, except I want it to be me and not “her”.  The ache in my heart is to be chased, pleaded for, and won over.

How cool and how cool and how really cool that God knows this about us girls.  It’s as if He’s been paying attention to our chick flicks, and He knows what we long for most.

Nah!  That isn’t it at all.  The truth is, He knew that about us way before Hollywood was even a city.  All those chick flicks about the pursuit of a him to a her are imitations of something very real that is going on every day.  It’s the battle for my heart.

God is in pursuit of us.  Me!  You!  Us!  He really is!  He wants you to be His child, He wants you to belong to His Kingdom, He wants to protect you from the perils of Hell, and He wants to bring you to Heaven with Him.

God is chasing after you.  God is!!!  Ever since we turned from Him, He has been trying to win us back.  He seeks you, He loves you, and He took the most extreme sacrifices of all to get you.  He followed you from the Garden of Eden to the wilderness.  He followed you from life to death.  He even went down to the grave so He could bring you back up!

In chick flick movies, the guy goes through all the trouble of chasing after the girl because he feels like he needs her.  He has a self-serving reason to catch up with her.  But God has no such motive when it comes to us.  He doesn’t need us at all–but He pursued us because He knew we needed Him.  That’s the incredulity of the pursuit of God; He pursues us not so that He can be loved by us, but so that we can be loved by Him.

This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent his unique Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, ISV)

Seeing

I now see the love of God for what it is:

Real.

The God who Suffered for Tormentors

What God did for us is not like any story we know.  He is the God who Suffered for Tormentors.

We were the tormentors.

I can get a glimpse of what God did if I think about a small analogy of it.  Suppose you invite me over to your house for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner.  But I’m jealous because you know how to make a great dinner and I don’t.  So while we’re eating, I take my steak knife and stab you in the arm.

You go to ER and get a medical bill that costs a small fortune.  And the police come and arrest me.  You could sue me for expenses and all the pain I’ve caused you–not to mention to take just vengeance on me.  But you don’t.  Instead, you pay the medical bill that I caused you.  Then you come to the jail where I’m in a holding cell, take my place, face the judge for me, and serve my sentence.

Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?

But that’s nothing compared to the story of the cross.

I serve the God who Suffered for Tormentors.

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5, NIV)

Wrong #

I was about ten or eleven and still crazy about Happy Meal toys every time MacDonald’s did a series of plushies.

The Yellow M did a series of plushies on something like “endangered animals around the world”.  They had a turtle (with a faux leather shell!), polar bear (probably the cutest one), a monkey . . 8 of them in all.

I don’t like monkeys.  I really don’t.  But I like having 7 of the 8 items in a series even less.

I was determined to get each and every critter.

So I called up MacDonalds’ in our city.  I found out which ones had one of the animals I was missing in my collection.

I don’t know if MacDonald’s was used to getting calls from kids asking what Happy Meal toys they had, but employees at every store took my call.  Some of them knew right away which toys they had.  Others would go check.

One particular night of MacDonald’s calling, I needed the monkey plushie.  So I called different MacDonald’s and said something like, “Do you have the monkey in your Happy Meal right now?”

After some no’s (I don’t remember how many), I was getting discouraged.  And tired of asking the same question.  I decided to shorten it.  I called the next MacDonald’s and asked,

“You don’t have any monkeys, do you?”

“What??” the voice on the other end of the phone asked.

“You don’t have any monkeys, do you?” I asked again.

“Who is this?” the voice asked, sounding very confused.

I hadn’t gotten this kind of service from MacDonald’s before.  I was a bit unsettled.

I explained that I wanted to know if they had the monkey as their Happy Meal toy right now.

Turns out, I had dialed the wrong number.

I had called a woman at her house.

Very fortunately for me, she was very understanding about a kid calling her at 7-something at night or so and asking for monkeys.

The difference between calling MacDonald’s and calling a total stranger who doesn’t have monkeys is only 1 digit.  That’s it.  Dial even 1 digit wrong from the phone book, and there is no Happy Meal.

If I can’t even get one number off in the phone book and call the place I’m meaning to call . . how could I think I can dial up any god I want and wind up in Heaven?

“No one else can save us. Indeed, we can be saved only by the power of the one named Jesus and not by any other person.” (Acts 4:12, GW)