Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Love, Actually?

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. -2 Corinthians 5:10

Boundaries everywhere. Jesus said the truth will set you free, but are we tempted to think that the truth just fences us in?

That's the way the world thinks. You've heard it, "Christianity is nothing but a bunch of rules and regulations." Sounds awful, right?

Till I get to thinking, rules and regulations (call them laws if you like) are part of every human society. Can you imagine driving down the highway without rules telling us all which side of the road to drive on? Demolition derby might look like fun, but I've been in a wreck and have no desire to repeat the experience.

All this came up in our men's leadership training class this Sunday. We live in an age of "come as you are, worship as you will," Christianity. The result tends to be a lot like what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14.

So there are boundaries to what worship should look like. These are laid out in Scripture. More rules to follow, right?

In the course of our discussion, it was pointed out that calling each other to account before God is the most loving thing we can do, if we are careful to do it in a loving manner.

Great example somebody gave: You have a youngster, say four years old playing in your front yard. Suddenly he makes a beeline for the street. You are not in a position to block your child's path and a car is speeding down the street.

What kind of discipline did you give this young'un when he was two? One? Even when he was a baby learning to pull up and walk?

Is your baby "a special little snowflake" whose self esteem might be wounded by your firm but loving correction? "It's just a stage," you may have said when he was "acting out." "He'll grow out of it."

Perhaps you were a bit more traditional and required respect and obedience.

So back to the scenario in your front yard. What do you do? I imagine you would scream, "Stop!" at the very top of your lungs. What happens next?

My Heavenly Father loves me. He heals all my diseases (the spiritual one most especially). He has redeemed my life from the pit. He covers me  with mercy and grace and his love is from everlasting to everlasting.

In His love, He has given me instruction for living and named it "Wisdom" when I seek to follow those instructions instead of my own will. My Heavenly Father has set boundaries. Those fences we talked about are really hedges to protect me from Satan and the world and, yes, even myself.

God has adopted us and we had no more choice in the matter than the infant has a choice in which parents will take her home with them. Having set his affections on me, He will never stop loving me.

But He has set conditions; rules of expected behavior. However imperfectly we enforce discipline on our children, The Heavenly Father's discipline is perfect.

"For the moment," writes the author of Hebrews, "all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant...." How true that is, both on the surface, but also on a deeper level. Do you imagine that God feels pain rather than pleasure when He disciplines His wayward children?

How well I recall the grief and pain expressed by my own father on those few occasions when he had to administer discipline among us kids. But here's the kicker (if there is one to all this):

The writer of Hebrews continues, "...but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

And that's love, isn't it?

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