|Frans Van Heerden|
When God seems distant, it's his love for us. Himself being love, everything God does is love, even when he judges or condemns us. His anger and punishment is love. We have to understand this to apply correct love with others. We don't just love everybody in the way the world suggests we should.
The world's idea of love is prone to abuse. And church is sometimes carried away by it. Especially unconditional love. God loves us "unconditionally," but that doesn't mean he lets us off the hook for every bad thing we do. Yeah, he loves us unconditionally but he still spanks us when we sin. He still requires no less than repentance. He disciplines whom he loves. And "discipline" here is something "painful, not pleasant" says Hebrews 12.11.
Lots of church people don't quite get it. They think it's about being "nice" to people all the time, smiling at them regardless of what they do and letting them carry on. I've seen how some pastors allow their church workers to do ministry despite their wallowing in sin "to give them a second chance." They think that's how God's love, grace and mercy work.
Love, grace and mercy all have to do with judgment and discipline, and vice versa. That's how God designed them. Even with anger. You love an offender so you judge what he does, to help him see his wrong. Then you discipline him. That's grace and mercy. Discipline is when you apply good-natured punishment to give him a chance to redress and change.
Love is also when you need to isolate an offender from you. The silent treatment bothers the conscience more than anything else. Most people prefer being scolded or humiliated than given the cold shoulder. And God does that sometimes. It's a terrible thing to feel ignored by God.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? [Psalm 13]If we're wise, we'd follow God's ways. We should sometimes stay aloof from ungodly people. In fact, Paul said we should not be eating with sexually immoral people who claim to be Christians. He also urged the Corinthians to "come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." Peter said, "save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Some would question this and wonder how else we can help sinners go back to God. Well, by following God's ways, for one. We cannot go against his ways and hope to help others by that.
But we don't do this (separate from the ungodly) with everyone who sins. We should also have God's wisdom and timing. Sometimes, we should eat with "tax collectors and sinners" as Jesus did. Be led by the Holy Spirit in all this. There are some who misuse these measures (ostracize, blacklist, reject) against those who merely disagree with them. They exclude people for having unlike opinions or doctrines, or for simply being different. This is not discipline. It's witchcraft. It's demonic control. And this practice is rampant in church.
Why? Because church often loses sight of genuine love. They see love in different ways except God's ways. Sometimes they think lawlessness is love. Anything goes, as they did so in Judges. Anything goes, especially when anything seems effective and grows church membership. They think love allows people to do anything they want in church (so their pastors let them).
There are even some who think love should be centered on them. If you don't focus on them, you are loveless. In fact, they think you have hatred, animosity and bitterness toward them. They demand your full attention. Do they see themselves self-centered or selfish? Nope. They believe love is all about them.
Some require you to reciprocate their love. Yes, they're loving folks, but they expect you to return the favor. Of course, we need to love one another, and we should at least say thanks to people who give us favors. But to require it from our beneficiaries? Does God do that? He gives sunlight to both the good and the bad, the grateful and ungrateful.
God teaches the power of thanking him in the bible but does not strictly demand it. Jesus did wonder why only one healed leper went back to give thanks, but the bible didn't say he was angry or he demanded it. He gave a thanksgiving tip, that's all. We should thank God in all circumstances, and thanksgiving is what makes us enter his gates [Psalm 100.4].
But no one in the bible was punished severely for failing to thank God--unlike how Moses was prevented from entering the Promise Land for not talking to the rock, how Aaron's sons were killed by unauthorized fire, how Eli and his sons were killed for treating the Lord's offering with contempt and how Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying.
There are folks who don't thank you after you give them a favor. It shows their character. But it's no reason to think ill of them or banish or scold them. Remember, it's their choice, and we should all respect people's personal choices. Learn to love without being loved back and to give without being thanked--and still feel blessed about it all.
Do not control people's character preference. If you think the guy should be taught a lesson on gratitude [or anything else], then let the right person over him do it. James said not all of us can be teachers. The best thing you can do is pray for him or her. That's being God's flesh on earth.
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