May 6, 2018 Falling in Love with God

Falling in Love with God

I John 5:1-6

Are you in love with God? In 1 John, the author has a lot to say about the love of God and the way that love changes our lives. We love because God first loved us. God’s love fills us to overflowing so that it flows through us to other people. Annie Dillard said that we catch grace like a man filling a cup underneath a waterfall. That’s the way we receive God’s love. But there can be a problem for us when we put a lid on our cups and the water can’t get inside. We’re closing our hearts off to the love of God.

            The Christian faith is about a relationship. We tend to forget that. As United Methodists, we often act like it’s all about getting our theology right. We have to have the proper understanding of holy communion, and we have to know how to interpret the Bible correctly. We act like the Christian faith is all about a logical progression of thought that we can teach other people. In that respect, we would do well to learn a thing or two from Christians of other denominations who aren’t afraid to talk about their relationship with Jesus Christ. While theology and rational thought might enrich our faith life, it’s not what lies at its core. What lies at the core of our faith is the relationship we have with God.

Last week we focused on the nature of God’s love. We’ve learned that  Love is more than a feeling or a four letter word signifying affection. As a Christian LOVE means life! We focused on three important questions concerning the nature of LOVE.

Where does love come from? It comes from God alone. What does it look like? It looks like a man hanging on a cross in our behalf. What does such love require out of us? It requires us to move beyond need love to gift love. To look around at others who are in need of God’s love and to give it to them–not asking what they can do for us, but remembering what Christ has done for us.

“This is my command,” Jesus said to his disciples, and also to us: “Love each other.”

Loving God and one another go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

Now, our relationship with God is certainly unique and it’s not like the relationships that we have with other people, but there are also a lot of similarities. Often, what’s true for our human relationships can be applied to our relationship to God as well.

Often time the kind of relationship that people have with God is indicative of the relationship people have with the mom, dad, or both. For instance, if a person experienced their father as harsh and judgmental often that is projected on their attitude toward God.

Often our own personal relationships with others, especially our romantic ones often fail because we search out love in all the wrong places.

Some are longing to be loved by the love they can’t have, while others don’t want to be loved by the love that’s there for them. Some of us have a lot of trouble accepting love. The water may be pouring down upon us, but we won’t take the lids off our cups. I wonder why.

            Something tells me we might be afraid, but I’m not sure of what. Maybe it’s a fear of really giving ourselves in love to someone else and then having them withdraw that love. When you really love someone you become so vulnerable. It’s like placing your beating heart in another person’s hand and trusting them to care for it.

Would this be true also for your relationship with God?

Are you afraid to trust God with your heart?

            Have you ever had someone ask you if you love them and responded, “Yes, I love you” only to have them ask, “Why? What is it about me that makes you love me?” We’ll usually answer a question like that by coming back with a laundry list. “Well, let’s see … I love you because you’re kind, and you’re smart, and you make me laugh, and you have the most beautiful eyes….” But do you really love someone for any of those logical reasons? I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no good reason why we love the people we do. We just love them because we love them. Sometimes it’s even their faults that draw us to them the most. Our God doesn’t love us because we’re in any way worthy of that love. God loves us because loving us is what God does. God is love.

            Does that make it too easy? Would we find God’s love more valuable to us if we had to work hard to earn it? If we could purge ourselves of all our sins, would we then find it easier to open ourselves up to receive the love of God into our lives?

            God’s love hasn’t come too easily to us. It came with a tremendous price. But because God is love, Jesus paid the price so we don’t have to. So God’s love comes freely to us. Here’s the big thing… God loves you whether you want him to or not. You can put a lid on the cup, but you can’t stop the waterfall from pouring down upon it.

            There’s a quirky short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne about a man named Wakefield.2 One day, Wakefield wakes up and decides to take a little break from his wife and home in London and rents out a room one block over. He doesn’t tell his wife, and he only intends to stay away for a day or two but then the days go on. He watches his wife from a distance for twenty years, never once letting her know where he is or even that he is living at all — for twenty years. The story ends when one day, while Wakefield is out walking down the street, he suddenly decides to return home and we see him entering the door to his home as if he had never left.

            How many people have a relationship with God like that? One day we slip away and we think it’s just a short break from the relationship, but the years pass and it’s as if we’re watching God from one street over but our lives don’t ever connect. By this, I’m not talking necessarily about people who have strayed away from the church, because the church and God are not the same thing. I’m talking about anyone who has removed themselves from the loving relationship God offers. It can happen for people in the church as easily as it can for those outside the church. I hope those of us who are inside the church are here because we want to grow in our relationship with God. We want to take the lids off our cups and let the love of God fill us to overflowing so that his love flows through us onto other people, who also want to grow in their relationship with the God of love.

            I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a loving relationship with someone and that relationship is in balance, I can feel it. When it’s out of whack, I can feel that, too. I suspect that we know when our relationship is in balance with God or when it’s out of whack. John tells us that one way to tell is if following Christ’s commandment to love one another as he has loved us is a burden for us or if it just comes naturally. After all, when you’re in a loving relationship with someone, you want what they want, too. If Christ wants us to love one another as he has loved us, it’s what we want, too. It’s not a huge struggle for us; it’s something that we willingly do. We may not be perfect at loving the way Christ does, but there is no question that we’re not resisting it. What Christ wants for us is the same thing we want for ourselves.

            It’s tempting to become like Wakefield and say, “You know, maybe someday I’ll go home. Maybe someday I’ll be in a relationship with God.” Then the days and the years pass. Of course, Wakefield did go home in the end. We don’t know if his wife was like the waiting father in the story of the prodigal son or not, but we do know that that’s how our God is. He’s always waiting for us to come to our senses and find our way back to him. But in the meanwhile, how much are we missing? Wakefield missed twenty years of his life because he was a stubborn old fool.

            God’s love is all around us. May we have enough sense to open our hearts and let it in.