Monday, April 1, 2013

Barriers to God's Love

In pondering our earlier Post, the Significance of God's Love, I was thinking about things that can hinder us from expressing God's love.  What keeps us from really moving out in faith to love our families, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

1. Ruts
One of the major barriers I see in my own life is the tendency to fall into a Rut.  It is entirely possible to lock ourselves into a mindset that never looks outside our daily routine.  Even seemingly good, religious activities can become a rut that prevent us from seeing what God is doing and keep us from seeing the real needs of those around us.  If my goal is to get to the "church meeting" on time, why would I stop to help my neighbor?  In the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37, isn't it interesting that it was the "professional" religious men who passed by the hurt man.  I assume they were too busy and stuck in their "rut" to allow themselves to feel compassion on him.  They allowed what they deemed good, getting to their destination on time, to get in the way of seeing from God's heart of love and compassion.

We Christians need to learn to slow down, relax, and just love the people right in front of us. "Stop for the One" as Heidi Baker says.  Instead of getting grand ideas about doing big things for God, if we could just get in touch with God's heart and then crawl out of our rut long enough to see a need and "stop for the one" right in front of us, we will be the ones Jesus works through to change the world "with" him instead of "for" him.

In church meetings, even in so-called Charismatic churches, ruts often keep God locked up.  He is "in" us, but he desires to get out.  We can assume that the order of service is to be followed, but miss the real needs and what God is doing. Our rut keeps us from ever expecting anything different, it keeps us from seeing the real needs around us, and it limits our faith.

Order of service in a Charismatic Church: Pray, worship, preach 5-15 mins about giving financially, take an offering, worship some more, preach again, alter call with musical accompaniment, done.
Order of service in a traditional church: All stand, sing Hymn 596, All Sit down, sing Hymn 278, All stand up, repeat Lord's Prayer, Pastor Prays, take an offering, scripture reading, All sit down, preach, most people fall asleep, Sermon complete, most people wake up, all stand up, sing Hymn 193, done. 

2. Wrong Judgments about others
Another barrier I see is the tendency to lock ourselves and others into an imaginary rut through critical, negative thought patterns.  The tendency can be to look at ourselves and others based on past experience instead of peering prophetically into truth by faith.  If we look only at what lies on the surface, we fail to see the beauty and potential that may lie beneath.  Only when we see as God sees can we really love.    Could this be why the words "Faith, Hope, and Love" are tied to each other.  A hopeless, faithless perspective is an unloving perspective.  Of course, seeing sin as wrong does not preclude faith and hope.  Truth and Love are also tied to each other very closely and cannot be separated from one another.  John 1:14  To see truthfully is also to see lovingly and with a grace-centered perspective.  To see with all of these(Faith, Hope, Love, and Truth) is to see from God's perspective instead of a fleshly perspective.

 1 Cor 1:27  Jesus chose disciples who were the most unlikely to be world changers, but he also saw their potential.  God rescued and saved many of us, also the most unlikely to amount to anything from the world's perspective.  We need to be careful to see others by the Spirit and discern by the Spirit.  If we make wrong judgments, we will miss what God is doing and operate in unbelief.
Personal Examples
These are things I noticed in my own life when pondering this issue.  I realized I had some repenting to do and a need to allow God to deliver me from my "rut". 
1.  Judging others outwardly or from past experience:  I often pass by co-workers several times a day,  some of them I have known for years, but rarely assume they might have needs or may have an interest in God so I mostly ignore them and expect nothing.
2.  Daily Routine, busyness:  We eat at approx. the same time each day, do our chores, and I put my children to bed at about the same time every night, anything that strays out of the routine is often seen as a hindrance.
3.  Compartmentalizing God:  I get up and spend some time with God in the morning, maybe read my bible or a devotional,  maybe worship and listen for his voice, but many times don't consult him about throughout the day or remain sensitive to his presence, love, or inward voice.
4. Separating Sacred from Secular.  Seeing religious activities as Sacred, and all else as worldly or unimportant.  Therefore, not seeking God unless the activities are seen as sacred or religious.

I realized this tendency toward "ruttishness" and religiousness was a generational sin that needed to be broken. If we come out of agreement with these ruts and wrong perspectives, and come into agreement with God's perspective of love and freedom, they lose power over us.

3. Wrong judgments about God
When we really get to know what God is like, and we know experientially and by faith how much he loves us, we will be free to love others in the same way. The more we comprehend the love of God, the more we will desire to love people in the same way. If we view God as distant, mean-spirited, out to get us, and waiting to catch us in an act of sin so he can strike us dead and throw us into hell, we will certainly not treat others with a loving spirit. If we see God as our best friend, close to us, for us and not against us, bearing our burdens, ever-present, kind, compassionate, forgiving, fun-loving, etc, we will become like him. As we behold God, we will become like how we view him. That is why it is critical to have an accurate picture of who God really is and how he relates to us.
2 Cor. 3:18 He does not relate to us like he did to those under the old Covenant so we do not need to relate to him out of fear and condemnation. We relate to him on the basis of the new covenant he has made with us through Jesus, we are Righteous and Holy, fearless, his beloved children, and his close friends. 2 Cor 3:7-9