One day when my granddaughter, Hannah, was eleven years old she came running to Melanie, obviously upset. Here’s the conversation:
Hannah: Grandmommy, Jeremy just choked me!
Melanie: He choked you?
Hannah: Yes, look at the red mark on my neck!
Melanie: Go tell Jeremy to come here.
Melanie: Jeremy, did you choke Hannah?
Jeremy: Shakes his head yes with a guilty expression on his face.
Melanie: Jeremy, you can’t choke your sister.
Jeremy: I can’t go to jail until I’m thirteen.
Melanie: Jeremy, nobody has said anything about going to jail. You don’t choke your sister because you love her! Do you love Hannah?
Jeremy: Nods his head yes again.
Melanie: Do you think there’s anything you want to tell her?
Jeremy: I’m sorry.
Melanie: That’s a good idea.
Jeremy goes into the other room and apologizes.
Yes, those are my daughter’s children! Jeremy really is a kind boy and that behavior was untypical of his normal attitude. I’ll admit though that his train seriously jumped the track with that incident.
It’s noteworthy that the first response that popped into his seven-year-old mind was about the law and jail. The little legalist takes after his Dad’s side of the family. I’m joking, of course, but the issue here is that it is the bent of the flesh to think in legalistic terms. Would it be wrong to do this or that? Would I be punished for doing it?
It’s not just Jeremy who missed the point. We all miss it at times. Our actions aren’t about right versus wrong or about punishment. The catalyst for our lives is to be love. When our lifestyle is grounded in our union with Triune Love, we live from that benchmark, not a set of rules that come with a corresponding set of rewards and punishment. We act lovingly because Love is our DNA. In Him we live (and love) and move and exist.
Love relocates the motivation for our behavior out of the realm of duty and into the realm of desire. We honor Christ in our actions because we want to, not because we have to. So many people have been abused by a religion that has taught them that they must behave in certain ways so that they’ve never been free to live a godly lifestyle. Instead, they have always been obligated to live a certain way.
Your Father’s love for you will remain the same regardless of what you do or don’t do. As long as we think that our behavior has anything to do with how He feels about us, we will never be able to rest in His love. We will always find ourselves focusing on what we’re doing, wondering if it is good enough to stay in His good favor.
The wonderful truth about His grace is that God doesn’t love you because of how good you are. He loves you because of how good He is. Your behavior may fluctuate but God’s love for you does not. His love for you will never be any greater or any less than it is at this very moment. Your Father loves you as He loves His own Son. In fact, you stand in a Circle of Love among the Members of the Trinity and the great Three-In-One embrace you as the Father, Son and Spirit embrace each other in an eternal love that will forever be steadfast and unchangeable.
The Apostle Paul said that it was the love of Christ that controlled his actions. It is important to note that he didn’t say it was his love for Christ but instead it was Christ’s love for him that regulated how he behaved. The emphasis in the modern church is about how we should love Him, but the emphasis of the New Testament is on His love for us. To reverse the two is to find ourselves in a place where we’re filled with constant spiritual fatigue from our efforts to love Him more.
Our lifestyles are to be motivated by His love for us, but how are we to grow in our love for Him? The answer is to grow in the knowledge of His love for us. As you grow in your capacity to receive His love, you will discover that love flowing out in your lifestyle in an unprecedented way.
Too many times when we misbehave, we confess and ask God to help us to love Him more, but as we grow in the knowledge of His love for us loving Him in a greater way will be the natural outgrowth. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). When we know how much we are truly loved regardless of whether our behavior is right or wrong, our motivation changes so that we become motivated internally, not externally.
So, when your own behavior jumps track at times, don’t look upward to an imaginary Judge of the Universe who stands ready to send you to jail. Look into the face of Pure Love and you’ll find yourself wanting to behave well on the basis of His loving attitude and actions toward you.