Random Blog Clay Feet: September 25, 2008
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Love and Force

I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.

I could show you my glory but you could not survive the experience.

I could force you but that would destroy your heart's ability to love.

Force has a very important place in the workings of the principles of creation. God has set up natural laws that have unimaginable potential for force. We sometimes call them “forces of nature”. Likewise, there are principles in the spirit realm of intelligent beings (that includes us) that have tremendous forces in place that can either be powerful motivations for living and thriving or terrifying threats that induce fear and submission and suck away the life out of our bones.

As I have been thinking about this issue of force it seems to me that while God put in place all the counter-balancing forces in creation designed to perfectly function together, He intentionally carved out a sacred space in His creation design that was to be free of all force, where relationships could flourish and love could blossom. Force is a poison that prevents love from growing in the heart and it is extremely important that the atmosphere surrounding the heart be free of all coercion if it is to flourish and thrive. And because God operates only on the principle of love in all His dealings with the intelligent beings He has created, He fiercely defends each individual's freedom of will and choice so as to protect the potential for the plant of love to spring up and thrive in the heart.

But here on earth we have already experienced so much force and abuse of authority that our hearts are numb with pain and fear and are incapable of producing real love on our own. Often the thing which we do feel from others and that we think is love is only the selfish advances of people who may try to care about us but in the end are seeking to exploit us, even when that is not their conscious intention. And it works both ways. Even when we honestly believe we are motivated by genuine concern for others and try to bless them, our motives are always mixed and the selfishness that mingles in with our love contaminates it and confuses the heart.

Selfishness is always looking for ways to make us feel better, to have a sense of value, to draw attention to ourself in some way so we can feel more important. We legitimately do have a need to feel valuable and important to others. It is one of the most elemental needs of the brain to feel cherished and loved by another – that is the definition of joy. But trying to get it from others without first genuinely knowing we are valued and loved by God is an exercise in futility in the long run. We end up substituting pleasure for satisfaction and exploiting others more and more to try to fill our own emptiness. This is what sin is all about.

The suspicions aroused in the heart by repeated experiences like this have made us extremely skeptical of even the existence of genuine, selfless love. So when someone tries to describe to us a God who loves us with no selfish motives attached we find it nearly impossible to imagine it, much less believe it could be true for us individually.

Because we are so unfamiliar with the nature of real love but are intimately familiar with the workings of force, all of our beliefs about reality and the supernatural are distorted by our mistaken assumptions about the use of force. We do not cherish the fierce protectiveness that God has for personal freedoms. We are far more focused on performance, appearances and solutions to problems than we value intimacy of relationships. To us, putting healthy relationships ahead of looking good in our behavior appears to be weak-minded, maybe even fickle or sinful. We also assume that relationships must have some degree of force involved at least once in awhile to keep them on track. We simply can't imagine having “successful” relationships with others without having the option to resort to force “when necessary”.

What ends up happening is that we insist on mingling our addictions to force in with our assumptions about God and coming up with a formula that we believe He must use to solve the sin problem. We end up creating our own religion based on teachings about a loving God who tries as long as possible to reach people with gentleness, kindness and compassion but in the end is compelled to resort to force to get His way when all else fails. Depending on our own experience and upbringing, the point where we believe God switches from being nice to getting stern and resorting to force varies greatly. But the very fact that we insist that God cannot win this war against evil without resorting to our ways of dealing with problems through force betrays the immense unbelief we cherish about the true power of love operating free of all coercion.

One of the ways we convince others of the supremacy of force over love is to bring intense emotional pressure on those who are truly trying to imitate God's ways. If and when in their weakness they succumb to the fear of our intimidation and are overcome due to their immaturity, we then hold up their failure as an example of the inferiority of trusting in love alone. But is forcing someone else to fail a legitimate proof of the weakness of love to overcome all sin? How does this line up with the teachings of Jesus who came to reveal the heart of the Father to us?

Jesus told Paul that His strength was made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) So why do we as Christians continue to glorify the supposed virtues of force when repeatedly throughout Scripture God tells us that His ways are strikingly different than our assumptions? If we are ever to find the truth about reality we must be willing to release our vise-grip hold on our life-long assumptions about the use of force and allow the gentle Spirit of Jesus to retrain our thinking and rewire our reactions and fill our hearts and minds with the ways and will of the true God.

The more I have studied the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel and the surrounding stories, the more clear it becomes to me that this was one of the main lessons that God had to reinforce in Elijah's mind and heart when He took him through the retraining session on Mt. Horeb some days later. Elijah had succumbed to the temptation to indulge in the use of force by killing the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and all the subsequent embarrassing choices made by Elijah flowed from that wrong decision. I believe Elijah realized this too late and is the reason why Elijah ran back to where he was sure he could sort things out with God and get his head on straight again. God lovingly but carefully took Elijah through a series of examples of things to avoid when trying to discern the voice of God in the soul. And pretty much all of them were typical reflections of force.

In the end it will be seen that the use of force to accomplish what we believe is God's will is never the right thing to do no matter how right it feels like at the moment or how much affirmation we get from those around us while doing it. Man's ways are not God's ways and until we learn to trust His ways and be constantly led by His Spirit, we will be vulnerable to falling into the trap of resorting to force on occasion to accomplish what God can easily do through other means and resources.

What God desires more than anything else – including perfection of performance and behavior – is a trusting heart that is humble, teachable, full of self-distrust but also full of confidence in God's love and ability to accomplish what He wants done in our lives. God wants a deep relationship with our heart far more that He wants what we think are good outward appearances. When the heart is changed and transformed first, then the outward life will begin to reflect the inward transformation without our having to work hard at it. This is natural righteousness by faith. And this is the life that trusts so fully in God's character and righteousness that it can release all desire to employ force to gets its own way.