I wrote last week on why I love God. Interestingly enough, right after I wrote that, I had a mini crisis about that very idea. I started thinking, “Well yes, I love God, and I know he exists and that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. We’re good there. But why don’t I ever hear his audible voice? Why doesn’t he talk straight to me? Why does it always feel like he demonstrates his love for me through other people and not straight from his mouth?” The one I italicized was my biggest question. I began wondering why it felt like my experiences with God were all vicarious through another person. Once I started thinking that, I of course spiraled down into a giant moment of “WHY DON’T I HEAR GOD’S VOICE. WHYYYYYYYY.” and my entire life flashed before my eyes. It happens. Can I get an amen?
Anyway. Fast-forward to church this morning. I went with a friend, and I was EXHAUSTED. So tired. I couldn’t focus during worship. I barely stayed awake for the sermon. Luckily, the guy in the back who constantly shouted, “COME ON PASTOR, COME ON. THAT’S RIGHT.” kept me awake enough to hear what he had to say. And what I heard was uncannily relevant.
His theme was on brotherly love. The Good Samaritan. I’ve heard this story a thousand times; haven’t we all? But I put it in the context of my questions. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly comparing every detail of my life to the way it “should be.” I always want to do things “the right way.” So my question with God was mostly, “What SHOULD I be experiencing? What’s normal?” So I’m basically trying to figure out what I can and should expect from God and how I can be sure I’m doing everything in my power to follow God well. I needed to know how God operates when it comes to showing his love and speaking to us.
The pastor directed our attention to 1 John. He jumped around a bit, but the most interesting part to me is in chapter four: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (v. 11-12). No one has ever seen God. Okay, cool. I’ve never seen God either, so that’s normal. Then I saw the word “but”–what does it mean? John is basically saying here that we can’t love each other unless God lives in us, and that God’s love is expressed fully, or completely, when we love each other, and this experience is as close to seeing God as we will get this side of heaven.
When I mulled this over a bit more, I realized that, when I place my experiences in context of this verse, my shattered universe begins to make sense again. What I took for “vicariously experiencing God” was actually me experiencing the fullness of God’s love as it was meant to be expressed. I wasn’t missing out! I didn’t have less of God than someone else! All those times when my dear friends texted me or brought me flowers or consoled me or did sweet things for me, God was showing his love for me in a tangible way, and that’s exactly how he designed his “body” to work.
This began to make sense to me even more as I thought about my friend I mentioned in my last post, the one who’s struggling at his spiritual foundations. He comes from a non-Christian home, doesn’t have many good Christian friends, and in general, hasn’t been shown nearly as much love as I’ve been shown in my life. I wish with everything in me that he could have been loved like I’ve been loved. And one of his big questions was the same as mine: Why don’t I tangibly experience God? Why haven’t I ever “felt” God? His lack of answers to these questions drove him away from God. And you know what I think the answer is? He’s never really had someone in his life who loved him with whole, selfless, persevering, extravagant love. WE, the body of Christ, are now Christ in this world. If we don’t show people love, they will never experience love. Those of this world cannot love, because God is love, and they don’t know him, so they will never express to one another what real love looks like. This manifests itself in my friend’s life, I believe, and makes him doubt God’s existence because he hasn’t known God’s love.
This post has two implications that I want to communicate. First, if you feel like you don’t hear the audible voice of God and doubt as a result, like I’ve done, you have to realize what I’ve realized: until we see him face to face, we experience him through communion with others. His love is made complete in our love for one another, and God uses others to show us his love and communicate wisdom and grace. Second, not only are we “the only Bible that some people will ever read,” but we also have the only love some people may ever experience. People may know about God, but until they’re shown love (by us), they will never experience him. Remember the girl from the fabric store in Five Minutes Could Change a Life? She came to God through the love my mom showed her. And through the continuing love of both my parents and the community of faith we belong to, the father of her baby also came to Christ. But only because my parents showed them the love of God. Let me say it again: you ARE Jesus on this earth. If you don’t love them, who will? Oooohhhh it just got quiet up in here! Can I get an amen?? I guess my southern friends are rubbing off on me. I love it. Anyway, God loves you. Do you want to love him back? Love others. Then they’ll love God. And then love others. And the whole world will feel it.
Have a blessed week!