The abusive theology of “deserved” tragedy…

[Trigger Warning: sexual abuse, Sovereign Grace,]

It took him less than 24 hours.

When news broke about the tornadoes in Oklahoma, I, like so many others, felt a tightness in my chest. Tears gathered in my eyes. I looked at the pictures and breathed the first frightened, horrified prayer to reach my lips. “No. Please no.”

Then, before I could stop it, an awful thought popped into my mind: “Oh no. How long will it take John Piper to get on the radio, TV, his blog, or Twitter to explain to the world that this was God’s judgment on sin and tell the parents who lost children in this tornado that they got exactly what they deserved?”

It took him less than 24 hours to comment.  So far, it’s just been a highly insensitive tweet:

piper-tweet-screen-shot-2013-05-20-at-11-58-46-pm.png

But mark my words, within the next 24 hours, a blog post will appear, explaining it all away. 

Because this is what John Piper does whenever there is a tornado…or earthquake…or shooting…or war.  While the world is still in shock, while we struggle to find the words to convey our grief and compassion and to weep with those who weep, he jumps in with an explanation, and it’s always the same: Bad things happen because God is angry. This is God’ judgment on undeserving, sinful people. Repent. We brought this on ourselves.

That’s because Piper and many in the fundamentalist neo-Reformed movement are working off of a perversion of the doctrine of total depravity that not only teaches that human beings are depraved—that is, that our humanity is marred by sin—but that this depravity renders the world’s men, women, and children into valueless objects of god’s wrath, worthy of nothing more than eternal torture, pain, violence, and abuse. Therefore, natural disasters (such as the recent tornado outbreak, the Asian tsunami of 2004, the Japanese earthquake, sickness, cancer, accidents) as well as evil perpetuated by others (the Sandy Hook shootings, the Boston bombings, the Holocaust, 9-11) are merely expressions of this god’s unending, unquenchable, and unpredictable wrath upon humankind. Sin triggers in god a sudden outburst, a violent temper tantrum, and humanity is exposed to a brief glimpse of what this god really thinks of us, what we all really “deserve.”

Piper’s response to the Asian tsunami summarizes the view well:

"The point of every deadly calamity is this: Repent. Let our hearts be broken that God means so little to us. Grieve that he is a whipping boy to be blamed for pain, but not praised for pleasure. Lament that he makes headlines only when man mocks his power, but no headlines for ten thousand days of wrath withheld. Let us rend our hearts that we love life more than we love Jesus Christ. Let us cast ourselves on the mercy of our Maker. He offers it through the death and resurrection of his Son This is the point of all pleasure and all pain. Pleasure says: “God is like this, only better; don’t make an idol out of me. I only point to him.” Pain says: “What sin deserves is like this, only worse; don’t take offense at me. I am a merciful warning.”

When a bridge collapse killed several families in Minneapolis in 2007, Piper told his eleven-year-old daughter that God let the bridge fall so that people would fear him. When a tornado hit the city, he blamed it on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for its position on homosexuality. When asked about violent texts from the Old Testament, Piper proclaimed “it is right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.” 

Piper’s god is like an abusive father, filled with unpredictable rage. His family must walk on eggshells, afraid of suddenly enraging him. Should he be provoked, this god will lash out with deadly, earthquakes, tsunamis, violence and war.  When his family cries out in anguish, he reminds them that they deserve no better. They are despicable, rotten to the core, so even in their pain they are doing “better than they deserve.” The fact that any have been spared merely proves his “love.”

This theology is, in a word, abusive, for it blames the victim for whatever calamity, abuse, or tragedy she suffers and says it is deserved. 

According to this theology, the children who died in Oklahoma this week got what they “deserved.” The victims of the Boston bombing got what they “deserved.” The people caught in the Twin Towers on 9-11 got what the “deserved.” The victims of the Holocaust got what they “deserved.”

If you think this theology is merely cerebral, with no real-world implications, consider the case of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Founder C.J. Mahaney is famous for teaching his followers that “we are all doing better than we deserve,” even when we suffer unspeakable tragedy and pain. Mahaney is one of several ministry leaders recently named in a class-action lawsuit alleging they failed to report multiple cases of child sex abuse within the ministry, urging the children who had been abused to “reconcile” with their abusers and counseling the abusers on how to avoid investigation and arrest.  The lawsuit alleges decades of brutal sexual abuse of young children--boys and girls-- from the 1980s on, at both Covenant Life Church, and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax. The Covenant Life plaintiffs even describe a gang rape where adults wore masks and the victim was an 8-year-old girl at the church-run elementary school and at other church functions. The accusations say children were forced to meet and forgive the accused, and pastors failed to notify other families-- so the perpetrators went on to prey on other children. 

Because many of the alleged victims did not sue within three years of turning 18, a judge recently had to dismiss much of the lawsuit, though the pastors and churches charged in the lawsuit could still face criminal charges because there is no statute of limitations on felonies.

Despite multiple reports of abuse, and  repeated efforts to dodge investigation by appealing to religious freedom  Sovereign Grace ministries has enjoyed the unwavering support of John Piper, Al Mohler and the Southern Baptist Convention, Tim Challies, and other Reformed leaders. Piper recently made a public statement, praising Sovereign Grace and “what God is doing in it across the country and around the world.”

As Zack Hoag recently noted:

"But this is the way the false gospel works, and it’s an old, old story. This false gospel starts with a false god – a god who is anger. Yes, the god of this SGM movement was said to be just that – gracious – but the seedy backdrop behind this notion of grace is a god of sadistic and irrational rage. C.J.’s famous quip that we are all doing “better than we deserve” is grounded in the idea of a god of such cruelty that no matter what injustice we may have suffered in life – or perpetrated – all is better than what we really deserve, which is unending conscious torture at the hands of a concentration camp commander christ. So don’t complain! Stop being depressed! And if, by some miracle of miniscule probability, you have been chosen for eternal life by the sovereignly electing mind of this raging god (a matter, of course, to be discerned by your SGM elders), then no matter what happens to you post-regeneration, you REALLY have no reason to whine!
The most grotesque allegations to come out of this lawsuit have to do with the culture of “gospel-centered reconciliation” in this movement, where victims of abuse – often, children – were simply told to “forgive” and “reconcile” with their adult church member/leader abusers. I mean, it’s better than you deserve, right? So get over it…And this false gospel of reconciliation doesn’t stop here. It is not only reserved for churches fraught with sex abuse scandals. It rears its ugly head in all kinds of conservative evangelical circles, taking the similar shape of pain-denying theologies that counsel victims to get over it and get back together with those who harmed them. The gospel is about reconciliation, right? So if your spouse hits you, forgive them and reconcile. And if your kids are starving because of a father’s gambling, get some counseling from an elder and make it work, honey. And if some friends cheated you in business, or a church member is spreading vicious lies about you, or a family member won’t stop manipulating you into situations of terrible emotional pain, hey, it’s better than you deserve because you’re a hellbound sinner too, so just reconcile with them because that’s what grace means (i.e., subjecting yourself to present pains presumably less than the eternal pain of conscious torment in hellfire) This is all BS. And it’s BS because it twists the truth of the ministry of reconciliation into something that perpetuates the abuse of power instead of subversively stopping it."

This abusive, shame-based theology that responds to disaster, abuse, and pain with calloused flippancy at best and perpetuation at worst, all because suffering is what people “deserve” anyway, has gained far too much ground within evangelicalism. It’s hurting our witness. It’s hurting the cause of Christ. It’s hurting innocent children.

But more often than not, those of us who express concern are encouraged to quiet down and make nice in the name of Christian unity. This is a mere theological difference, we are told. If the world sees us disagreeing with one another, it will hurt our witness.

I disagree, and in the strongest of terms.

What’s worse than the world seeing Christians disagree with one another is the world seeing Christians remain silent when their own go on TV and tell the parents of children lost in a tornado that those children and their families got what they deserved. What’s worse than the world seeing Christians disagree with one another is the world seeing Christians remain silent and supportive when their own are accused of multiple counts of child abuse and appeal to the first amendment to try and avoid investigation. What's worse than the world seeing Christians disagree with one another is the world seeing Christians perpetuate an abusive theology that teaches people that whatever abuse they are suffering, whatever pain they are enduring, whatever violence they have been subjected to, is deserved and perpetrated by god. 

I can abide differences when it comes to theology related to gender, the atonement, biblical interpretation, science, evolution, predestination and free will. Let’s debate those issues vigorously, but with grace and truth and love. But I cannot abide this theology that turns God into an abuser. I cannot abide this theology that makes God out to be a monster whose destruction is done in the name of “love.”

What does the Bible actually teach about suffering?

That we don’t know exactly why suffering happens in every situation, and we shouldn’t claim to,

That we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,

That when God wrapped himself in flesh and walked among us, God suffered too.

The great irony of Piper using the book of Job to support his theology is that the story of Job stands as an ancient indictment on those who would respond to tragedy by blaming the victim. That’s exactly what Job’s friends did, and the text is not kind to them for it, because Job is described as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

It’s like the disciples, who asked Jesus whether a blind man’s plight was the result of his sin or his parents’ sin. Jesus, somewhat incredulously, responds, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

It wasn’t Job’s fault he lost his family, possessions, and health. It wasn’t the blind man’s fault he could not see. And only arrogant fools respond to the pain of their neighbors the way that Job’s friends responded to his—with elaborate theological explanations, blame, and calls for repentance.

That eight-year-old did not deserve to be gang raped. The people of Oklahoma do not deserve to suffer. 

We all know this, intuitively, and yet we let it sneak into too much of our theology. 

So if your pastors are teaching this abusive theology, speak up. And if this theology persists in your community of faith, get out; it’s not healthy. 

And if you are escaping or recovering from this abusive theology, here what I want you to know:

You are not worthless. You are not disposable. You are not merely the object of God’s wrath.  You do not deserve to be abused.

Let me say that again: 

You do not deserve to be abused.

You do not deserve to be threatened. You do not deserve to suffer. You do not deserve to be hated.

You are profoundly, infinitely, and intimately known and loved. You are valuable. You are precious. You matter.

God doesn’t hate this world. God loves this world—enough to become a part of it, enough to suffer along with it, enough to weep with it, enough to work through it until one day every tear will be wiped from every eye.

And this love of God requires no perverted, twisted redefinition to make sense. It is exactly what we long for it to be, exactly what we know love to be.

Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails.

God is love.

God is patient and kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered. God keeps no record of wrong. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

And those Christians who speak eloquently, and prophecy, and claim to fathom all mysteries and knowledge, but do not exhibit this kind of love do not know God. They are just clanging cymbals, distracting us from the gentle whisper that affirms what we already know, deep inside: We are known. We are loved. We are worth dying for.

And I believe, with every ounce of my being, that this God weeps with us today.

***

For an alternative to this theology, check out Greg Boyd's sermon "Escaping the Twilight Zone God."

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/abusive-theology-piper-mahaney

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Is God's presence limited to Scripture?

'Small 'gift' Bible' photo (c) 2012, Mike Johnson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." – John 5:39

It has become something of a sport for folks in the evangelical, neo-Reformed tradition to take to the internet to draw out the “boundaries of evangelicalism,” boundaries which inevitably fall around their own particular theological distinctions and which seem to grow narrower and narrower with every blog post on the topic. 

Pastor and blogger Tim Challies recently added a few more stones to the fortress wall in a blog post entitled “The Boundaries of Evangelicalism.” In it, Challies writes about his concerns regarding “the power and prevalence of mysticism” in the contemporary church and posits that true evangelicalism rejects all forms of this “mysticism” and instead embraces the doctrine of the Reformed tradition and its emphasis on knowing God through Scripture alone.

He concludes:

“God has given us his Word to guide us in all matters of faith and practice. When we commit ourselves to mysticism, we commit ourselves to looking for revelation from God and experiences of God that come from outside that Word. We reject his gift--his good, infallible, inerrant, sufficient gift--and demand more. Because God promises us no more, we quickly create our own experiences and interpret them as if they are God’s revelation. Yet the Bible warns us that we can do no better than God’s Word and have no right to demand anything else. The question for Evangelicals today is just this: Will God’s Word be enough? Because whatever does not lead us toward God’s Word will always, inevitably and ultimately lead us away.”

The post is so full of historical inaccuracies, theological problems, and contradictions that it’s hard to know where to start, but I want to make clear from the get-go that my response to this post should not be seen as an attack on Tim Challies himself, (who I respect and like), but rather a response to the general belief that God’s presence is limited to the pages of Scripture and that all forms of contemplative or experiential spirituality should therefore be dismissed out of hand or regarded with suspicion. As evangelicalism in the U.S. has been working its way through something of an identity crisis over the past few years, and as many young evangelicals like myself have reconnected with the spiritual disciplines, this seems to be a recurring point of contention, and therefore one that should be addressed. 

Challies defines mysticism as “those forms of Christian spirituality which attempt direct or unmediated access to God” and mentions, generally, the popularity of books on spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation and, specifically, books by Christian authors like Sarah Young and John Eldredge. In the past, Challies has been highly critical of Ann Voskamp’s spirituality in One Thousand Gifts, chastising her for her experiencing the presence of God in nature and in a Catholic cathedral, and for being influenced by the likes of Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard.  One of the commenters after Challlies’ post also mentioned Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, centering prayer, contemplative prayer, lectio divina, and prayer labyrinths, which the commenter describes as efforts to “access God in a pagan/occult way.” 

According to Challies, mystics are those who experience  “a direct inner realization of the Divine,” and an “unmediated link to an absolute.” He goes on to argue that mysticism is any connection with God outside the context of Scripture. 

Challies writes, “Mysticism was once regarded as an alternative to Evangelical Christianity. You were Evangelical or you were a mystic, you heeded the doctrine of the Reformation and understood it to faithfully describe the doctrine laid out in Scripture or you heeded the doctrine of mysticism. Today, though, mysticism has wormed its way inside Evangelicalism so that the two have become integrated and almost inseparable.”  

I have no idea where Challies got the idea that “mysticism was once regarded as an alternative to evangelical Christianity.”

While it is true that the Reformers occasionally used the word “evangelical” in their writings, most historians locate the roots of evangelicalism solidly within Wesley’s Methodism in England and in the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Evangelicalism was, at its heart, a movement, influenced not only by a strong emphasis on the authority of Scripture but also by a lively, impassioned, and deeply personal spirituality—an eclectic, ecumenical mix of elements from Pietism, Presbyterianism, Puritanism, and Pentecostalism. Evangelicalism’s mothers and fathers were mystically-inclined Christians like John Wesley, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, William J. Seymour, and A.W. Tozer—people whose “hearts were strangely warmed” by profound experiences with God, by  “a direct inner realization of the Divine.” 

And indeed, mysticism—which I would define as practices intended to help connect a person to God through experience, intuition, contemplation, the devotional reading of Scripture, ritual, and prayer—has been a part of the Church from the very beginning.  

From the events of Pentecost, to the practices of communion and baptism throughout Christian history, to the writings and teachings of the desert fathers and mothers, to the Reformation, to the divine offices being prayed continually throughout the world today, to the Azusa Street revival, to the spread of Christianity in the global South and East, the story of Christianity is the story of regular people connecting in powerful ways to the presence of God. 

Indeed, the history of the faith, and the teachings of Scripture itself, show that Tim Challies is dead wrong on one very important point: 

He says at the end of his post that when it comes to our connection with the holy, “God promises us no more” than Scripture as a means to knowing and experiencing his presence. 

This is absolutely not true. Scripture itself teaches us that God has promised us the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 2:33, Ephesians 1:13).

As Peter exclaimed at Pentecost, “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for your and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 

The Holy Spirit  has sustained the Church through good times and bad, through persecution and imperial power, through the centuries before the Christian Bible was fully assembled, through the assembling of that Bible, through the centuries when most Christians had very little access to the Bible, through the centuries when many American Christians have multiple versions of the Bible on their bookshelves and multiple Christian denominations in their hometowns. 

And as Jesus told Nicodemus, “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have boundaries. 

Furthermore, to limit the presence of Jesus to the words of Scripture, as if Christ’s presence is restricted to paper and ink, is to deny the resurrection of all its power. Christ is not merely an historical figure that we read about, a person from the past to whom we make intellectual assent. Christ is alive! Christ is present! Christ is directly accessible to all who believe! 

Jesus himself said that we can expect to encounter his presence not simply in the pages of Scripture, but also among the least of these, where two or three are gathered, in persecution, and in communion. Paul experienced Jesus on the road to Damascus. Peter experienced Jesus in the home of Cornelius (much to his surprise). Stephen saw Jesus just before his death. I have encountered the presence of Jesus in fellowship with other Christians, among the poor and disenfranchised, as I eat the bread and drink the wine. And if this makes me a mystic, then count me in! 

The whole point of Scripture is to testify to the Living Word, which is Jesus Christ. As Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees, "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." 

When we become more committed to the testimony than to the Person to whom it testifies, we are likely to miss the presence of Jesus even when it’s right in front of us. Probably because it took some form we weren’t expecting. Probably because it showed up outside of our boundaries. 

But Challies says “we can do no better” than the Bible. 

I’m not sure this is true. For what do we long for when we read the Beatitudes, when we meditate on the words of Christ through lectio divina, when we join with Christians past and present to pray the hours, when we climb Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle,” when we raise our hands in worship, when we eat the bread and drink the wine, when we walk the labyrinths, when like David we see that the night sky declares the glory of God, when we study the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, when we connect with a glorious line from Wendell Berry or Frederick Buechner, or Annie Dillard? 

We long for consummation, for total union with our beloved Christ. For He is the source of eternal life, the fulfillment of Scripture, and the object of our desire. 

Scripture points to Jesus, not the other way around. 

And all of these practices—from prayer to communion to fellowship to reading Scripture— give us glimpses of the day when that union will be realized, when we will all gather at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  But right now, even with Scripture, we see through a glass darkly. Right now, even with Scripture, we know only in part.

Only later will we see Jesus face to face and be known even as we are known. 

Now, here’s where I suspect Challies and I may agree: Because we believe Scripture to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice and a trustworthy testimony regarding Jesus Christ, we would be right to be highly suspicious of anyone whose claims about their experiences with God run contrary to the teachings of Scripture. Our testimonies should harmonize. Mysticism that morphs into mere superstition, or that contradicts what we know about Jesus from the written Word, is not a faithful testimony and should be warned against in the sternest terms. There is obviously space here to "test the spirits." 

But while we should be appropriately wary of anyone whose claims of personal revelation run contrary to Scripture, we should not discount, out of hand, all personal experiences with God that occur outside the context of Scripture...which is what Challies has essentially done with this piece. 

Furthermore, any understanding of “sola scriptura” that totally divorces reason, experience, and tradition from the interpretation process is a misunderstanding of that principle. We never approach Scripture alone. It does not exist in a vacuum. We approach Scripture with our Helper, the Holy Spirit, with the influence of the great cloud of witnesses who have read and interpreted it before us, and—like it or not—with the subtle but powerful influences of our culture, our language, our background, our experiences, and our biases. This notion of total, exclusive reliance on Scripture is a fantasy; it cannot be done. 

Challies says that “whatever does not lead us toward God’s Word will always, inevitably and ultimately lead us away.” But the point of Scripture is not to lead us back to Scripture. The point of Scripture is to lead us to Jesus Christ.  And any student of Luther will know that this was central to the Reformer’s theology as well. 

Finally, when Challies defines mysticism as “direct or unmediated access to God” and then essentially trashes it as heresy, he (probably unintentionally) communicates that Christians need some kind of additional mediator to access God— Scripture, he seems to think, or perhaps the pastor interpreting it. (This is a fine example of how many Protestants tend to simply replace the Pope with the Bible and priests with the pastors interpreting it.) 

But once again, Scripture itself disputes this claim.  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for all people,” writes Paul. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” says the writer of Hebrews.  

Challies is wrong. We do have direct access to God. We need no additional mediator. 

And if labyrinths and lectio divina and contemplative prayer and Annie Dillard help remind us of that, I see no reason why we should fear them. 

A lot of young evangelicals are reconnecting with these mystical practices, and I count myself among them. I suspect we are drawn to ritual, tradition, contemplative prayer, and silence because these are things that give us a sense of history, identity, and communion with the universal Church that has perhaps been lacking in the evangelical church of late.  Praying the hours provides a rhythm to my day that takes the focus off of myself and my schedule and puts it on God and the members of God’s Church who are praying along with me. Ancient liturgies connect me to followers of Jesus from the past. Reading St. Francis and Teresa of Avila and Dallas Willard and Madeleine L'Engle help put words to my experiences and stretch me to see God in new ways. Communion…well, I can’t explain exactly what happens in communion, and I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that’s the point. While none of these things should serve as replacements of Scripture; they can certainly function constructively alongside of it. 

Honestly, the more Scripture I memorize, the more labyrinths I walk, the more prayers I pray and the more mystics I engaged, the sadder I become by all this boundary marking and fortress building coming from the more fundamentalist camps within evangelicalism. 

For I have tasted and seen. I’ve felt this wind blow wherever it wishes, however it wishes, whenever it wishes. I’ve caught a glimpse of this God who is bigger than Calvinism, bigger than evangelicalism, bigger even than the Church. 

And I have come to see that these boundaries designed to shut others out only serve to shut the builders in.

They’re missing out on all this space, all this freedom, all this fresh air we call grace. 

***

So what do you think? Is mysticism helpful or harmful to Christians? Should we expect to encounter God outside the context of Scripture? Do we have "direct, unmediated access" to God? 

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/presence-god-scripture-challies

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Love: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

[Trigger warning: abuse, rape]

Yesterday’s post seems to have struck a nerve, so I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the comments rolling in. But one commenter, Kat R., made an important point that I don’t want us to overlook. 

Responding to the kind of theology that suggests hurricanes and earthquakes and school shootings happen because an angry God has lost his temper and is unleashing his wrath and discipline on people whose sin nature makes them incapable of understanding such actions as loving, Kat R. writes: 

“…When Christians are told that God is love, but that "love" looks and feels like the opposite of what we know love to be (it's angry, it's emotionally unstable, it's violent), it's not a far journey to make for some leaders in churches to ALSO claim that their angry, unstable, and violent actions are "loving". This is how abuse happens.”

Kat is right. I’ve seen this play out time and again—not only in church situations, but also in marriages and homes. When love is stripped of its most basic meaning for the purposes of theological accommodation (“your childhood abuse/ cancer/ rape/ poverty is just God’s loving discipline in your life”), love loses all meaning whatsoever and becomes totally relativized. 

I’ve heard some theologians explain it like this: God is like a father, disciplining his children. Children don’t always realize that a parent’s rules and enforcements are for their own good. Similarly, God’s “discipline” (which they associate with natural disasters, violence, tragedy, rape, abuse, etc.) may not make sense to us now, but it’s part of God’s good plan. 

This metaphor makes sense at first blush, but it’s one thing to say that a parent may send a child to the corner for the purpose of loving discipline, quite another to say that a parent may rape and abuse a child for the purpose of loving discipline. When we cast God as an angry and abusive father whose actions we don’t understand as loving because our sinful minds are incapable of grasping true love, and when we say the logic of this paradigm should trump our intuitive revulsion to it, we’re veering into "orthodox alexithymia" territory fast. 

Eric Fry added this:

If "God is Love" is something that cannot be fathomed by our emotional understanding of love, then that verse has little meaning outside of any context people wish to place upon it. And placing a context upon 'love' that lies outside of our emotional understanding diminishes Christ's loving sacrifice…. Our deep appreciation and gratitude for that sacrifice can come only out of our own emotional understanding of love. The 'change of heart' of repentance can be only a shallow thing if it comes solely from our intellect.”

And Captivated Photo said:

“I always think of the 1 Cor 13 "The Love Chapter" as a chapter explaining Love or God as love to us. I replace the word Love with God and therefore begin to understand that God is patient. God is kind. God is not easily angered...etc. It's simplistic but it helps remind me who God is and how Love really looks.” 

I like that. 

So what is love? 

It’s exactly what we know it to be. 

 Love is patient.

Love is kind. 

Love does not envy. 

Love does not boast. 

Love is not proud. 

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/love-word-means

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.