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Tackling the Love Problem

Posted by on May 13, 2013 in love | 35 comments

Tackling the Love Problem

We have a problem, and some of us are still in denial.

In specific, we have a love problem. We don’t love. At least, we don’t love the way that Jesus said his disciples would love.

We don’t love one another – except for those who are just like us. And, we certainly don’t love our “enemies.” And, yet, as I said above, his true disciples would be known by their love.

If you ask people what they think of Christians in general, I’d be surprised if 10% of them mentioned our love. Why? Because we don’t demonstrate love toward them very often – if at all. Oh, we demonstrate many things toward them… but not love.

Lately, whenever I’ve talked about this “love problem,” I’m often met with reasons, excuses, justifications, conditions, and finger pointing. This has happened several times. I’ve rarely been met with this answer: “You’re right… we’re not very loving.”

This is a problem. It’s a problem we must own up to. It’s a problem we must address.

We can study and write and exegete and meet and confer and teach and preach and blog and argue… but if we don’t have love… we have nothing. (I’m glad that I didn’t write that first.)

So, for the next few days, I’m going to spend some time thinking (out loud… or in blog posts) about this love problem. But, my goal is for it to go much farther than writing these blog posts. My desire is to see my life demonstrate God’s love more and more and more and more.

But, to start this blog series, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions:

1) Do you think we have a love problem?

2) Why do you think love has taken second (or lower) place among Christians?

3) What’s the answer to this problem?

———————————————

Series on the “Love Problem”

  1. Tackling the Love Problem
  2. The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think
  3. We have everything we need to love others
  4. Love is easily recognized as love
  5. So, why does the church have a love problem?

35 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-13-2013

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.

    I perceive the issue is a lukewarm love for God. We mistake our love for knowing -about- God for knowing Him and sharing in His suffering: not the literal physical pain but the passion that put Him there.

    Francis Chan said it so well in “Passionately Loving God In A Lukewarm Church.”

  2. 5-13-2013

    Loving people isn’t easy. It goes against our selfish nature. It’s heavy.It’s time consuming. Honestly, I’m terrible at it. I think it’s easier for people to focus on law and teaching and doctrine. Exercising your brain is much easier than exercising your heart. I would be much more comfortable studying scripture than spending my weekends running errands with the mentally handicapped man in church or helping a man who lost his family due to a porn addiction find an apartment.
    I don’t really think the Church wants to teach love and I’m not sure what the solution is.

  3. 5-13-2013

    By the way, I’ve been struggling with this lately so I appreciate your post.

  4. 5-13-2013

    John,

    There is definitely a connection between our love for God and our love for others. It’s interesting that Paul, James, Peter, etc. could take Jesus’ “two most important commandments” (Love God / love neighbor), and reduce them to one commandment: love others. I also agree that there’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. Do you think our lack of love is an indicator that the church has been stressing knowing ABOUT God instead of knowing God? What would look different if we stressed knowing God?

    Anonymous,

    Thanks for commenting. No, loving other people is not easy. It’s not even easy to love the people we like. I love this statement you made: “Exercising your brain is much easier than exercising your heart.” Do you think the church has stressed “exercising your brain” more than “exercising your heart”? What do you think we would do different as followers of Jesus if we wanted to help people “exercise their heart”?

    -Alan

  5. 5-13-2013

    how funny. I just blogged about this on Saturday. I have a love problem. But I know growing closer to the Lord is the solution.

    I really do see God helping me get not only right outward appearances of love but helping me make progress in being full of TRUE genuine pure love so that I can give out pure genuine true love! It’s very slow and I mess up His work a lot. here were my saturday thoughts:

    http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com/2013/05/small-seeds-about-loving-others.html

  6. 5-13-2013

    I just went back and updated some of it. it was all jumbled :) I think it’s sort of ready & clear to be read now hehe

  7. 5-13-2013

    I guess my concluding thoughts on that blog were:

    a) I can’t love others by trying harder. I’ve tried. It’s never pure unselfish love that comes out

    b) I personally get caught up in loving so I feel good about myself… or loving to try to find my value in being effective in loving others. (self focused) …..or get caught up in loving others to please people instead of God…..and that all works for a little while…. until it doesn’t and then I’m just depleted and resentful and annoyed.

    c) I so desperately want to truly give pure, genuine, unselfish love out and be a funnel of His love.

    d) I know that being close to the Lord and getting nourishment from Him will allow the overflow to happen naturally and I will love others with an unselfish, God focused love. I will be able to see them as God sees them and just become more loving because of how loved and affirmed I feel. I know Jesus is the answer. I just can’t believe how hard it is to rest in Him and focus on Him.

  8. 5-13-2013

    Q1 – I think “I” have a love problem. At the moment, I’m internally struggling with this issue. Not sure how much I really have to say–or offer–to the “we” who have a love problem, until I am an example of loving and can show others that path.

    Q2 – Why is love not first place in my life? It is, but my love is for myself. So much so, there are times when I think I can even manipulate and use God to my own advantage.

    Q3 – What’s the answer? Oh, well, if I knew that, I’d be answering differently. Here is what I can tell you: it comes pretty close to something like being terrified to know I am so self-absorbed, and yet be so unable to get free of me, me, me at the core of who I am.

    Guesses?

    a. Maybe it has something to do with living shortsightedly, not having eternity in view, not living consciously as one “seated in the heavens.”

    b. Maybe it has something to do with not grasping the extent of sin from which I have been forgiven and the sureness of that forgiveness (he that has been forgiven much, loves much). Closely related to not appreciating the cost at which this was given.

    I do know that I want desperately to have only one Lord, and that NOT to be me any longer. Looking forward to the topic unfolding…

  9. 5-13-2013

    “Do you think our lack of love is an indicator that the church has been stressing knowing ABOUT God instead of knowing God? What would look different if we stressed knowing God?”

    yes. we need healing in our hearts.

    Like I said in my last comment.. the healing that comes when we are accepting God’s love, affirmation, nourishment…. will naturally flow on to others…. and it’s an unselfish,just because love. Not a love for results. not a love for ulterior motives.

    Instead, it’s the type of love this world needs. HIS love funneling through His people!! JESUS is the answer. Surrendering to Him brings healing. One heart at a time He is pouring His love back into this world!

    We can’t give what we don’t have.

    Healed hearts bring healing.
    Hurting hearts give out hurt.
    Self focused hearts give out self focused love.
    Hearts that feel condemned give out condemnation.
    Wrestling hearts give out fighting.
    Surrendered hearts give out surrendered love.
    Defensive hearts give out offense.
    Protected hearts give out protected love.
    Trusting hearts give out unconditional love – allowing God to worry about the results.

  10. 5-13-2013

    Randi, you posted while I was posting. Your points resonates!

  11. 5-13-2013

    Art – and after I posted, I wished I had seen yours first hehe. Your questions & thoughts helped me, too. God is soo cool!!

  12. 5-13-2013

    1. We definitely have a love problem.
    2. Loving others means dying.
    3. We can only truly love others as we come to grips with the love Jesus shows us and let that love flow through us.

  13. 5-13-2013

    Alan

    Readinng the post and the brilliant contributions from all these comments meant I could not do justice in leaving a comment here to begin to answer the questions you ask and engage in the splendid things the likes of Art, John, Fred and of course the wonderful Randi-Jo (as well as Anonymous).

    Though I’m loathe to use other people’s blogs as a springboard for my own, on this occasion I invite you to check out me own response to this here wonderful post you’ve put up.

    http://damancd.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/my-response-to-tackling-the-love-problem/

  14. 5-13-2013

    question #1 Do we have a love problem?

    yes we do, this seems to have it’s roots in our flesh, or our natural thinking. first and foremost we seem to misunderstand what love is, and from this we tend to ‘dress it up’ from our perspective.

    question #2 Why do you think love has taken second (or lower) place among Christians?

    there can be many branches to this tree, but the taproot again can be we eat from the wrong tree. our ‘judgement’ has the knowledge of good and evil, but not simply the Tree of Life. we tend to be double minded, and unstable in ‘our’ ways. we have placed our focus upon the ‘word’ rather than The Word. There will come a day that we better understand these issues. The idea that we are talking about them is good, we must get back to the garden, and see from the very beginning there were two choices, two trees, and two ways. One leads to division, confusion, and misunderstandings. the other is Life.

    “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” John

  15. 5-13-2013

    Among our circles, we differentiate between love and perfect love.
    In our everyday vernacular, love is general, as in marriage or familial love, or possibly loving the poor,but when speaking about solving problems of loveless-ness or forgiveness, or perhaps sacrificial obedience, we refer to it as perfect love.
    The difference is, as we see it, love that is us possible vs love that is only Him possible.
    We would conclude that only Him possible love can solve our love problems in the church.
    And for that to come about, we must all first embark on a revolution of basic obedience to the simple and known will of God, as already revealed
    unambiguously in scripture.

    If we attempt to get ‘all’ Christians on a journey to basic loving one another daily as He gave us command and ability to do, that first step process will itself be a great separating factor among us.
    If we are going to have separation, should it not be a separation between those who do and dont want to obey Him rather than the current separation over trifles between those who do want to obey Him?
    Once that separation has occurred, and it will eventually, then it will by default be quite simple to have ‘all’ the people of God are in unity.
    The scriptures are a story of separating between Gods’ people that wanted to move forward and those that didn’t want to, and not the ecumenism we see muddying the field today.
    That’s how our circles function, and we think that was the basis of NT unity that we aspire to but with faulty means.
    blessings
    Greg

  16. 5-14-2013

    Great Post! I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of them

    1) We absolutely have a love problem.

    2) I notice 2 things that go hand in hand. One: Much of the church is second generation Christians – raised in Church (or being discipled by second generation Christians). They don’t feel like they’ve been “forgiven much” – so they do not love much. Two: because they don’t feel they have been forgiven much, they take on the role of judge (reserved for Jesus). Most of the “evangelism” in the church is “I know the truth. You don’t. I’m right. You’re wrong. Shut up and listen.”

    In a word: Arrogance

    3) Experiencing God’s grace by recognizing our own depravity. I’m constantly amazed at the psalms – David was so aware of his own weakness and desperate need for a moment by moment renewal.

    Romans 12:3 (AMP) For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.

    In a word: Humility

  17. 5-14-2013

    For the most part, I think we should be careful in letting those outside of the faith define what love is. And, we should not let those within the faith define love as some subjective feeling. For example, many times, when a person is told something sternly, they’ll respond with “you’re not speaking the truth in love.” Love talks and acts.

    Without sounding like a complete sociopath here, let me pose this thought and see what reactions it draws:

    I’d rather be unloving, or at least be perceived that way and give you the truth which sets you free, than appear to be loving and settle for error which always binds.

  18. 5-14-2013

    If you are speaking the truth, which is love, can you be perceived as unloving? If you’re doing it right, I don’t think you can…

  19. 5-14-2013

    “Experiencing God’s grace by recognizing our own depravity”. Awesome.

  20. 5-14-2013

    Stephanie,

    Your words, “If you’re doing it right,” speaks exactly to my point. Rather than a bunch of loosely defined and subjective sensibilites regarding what’s right, let’s define it biblically. If someone’s raising their voice, making faces or hand gestures, it does not necessarily mean they are being unloving, unking, etc.

    So how do we do it right?

  21. 5-14-2013

    FF Bruce, the great NT scholar and a man whose personal testimony proved him true, would agree with Miguel.
    His book ‘Hard Sayings of Jesus’ is like a chiropractic adjustment to out of line love, that we as a family suffer from.
    Jesus called people fools, vipers, foxes, Satan, children of hell, lost et al.
    Every word Jesus spoke was love.
    I believe Miguel’s challenge reveals the nub of why we cant reproduce the unity and love we read about in Acts.
    I sat in reflective sadness last night as I watched some young Christians get excited and dejected to the point of tears, as they followed the Toronto Maple Leafs lead and then loss to their final chance at the Stanley Cup playoffs.
    But if I had, (and I have) spoken to some of them about the many evils we witness in our churches, (leave out the nations) such as pornography, lying, abortion, adultery, pride, selfishness, rage etc etc etc, there would have been near silence.
    This slippery ice we are on gets more treacherous as each generation passed the puck to the next one to deal with.
    blessings
    Greg

  22. 5-14-2013

    I’ll throw out a few things to add to the conversation/discussion. I’ll cover (or at least mention) most of these in later posts:

    1) Love has nothing to do with the way we feel toward someone else.

    2) Love has nothing to do with what we say to someone (right or wrong) or how we say it.

    3) We do not need to wait for God/Jesus/Spirit to give us anything more in order to love. We have everything we need.

    4) We do not need to wait for God to specifically tell us to love someone; he already has. Plus, it’s in his nature to love.

    -Alan

  23. 5-14-2013

    These are all awesome comments, I am thankful to have read these. Thank you!

    # 3 sounds especially interesting Alan. I will patiently wait. Well sort of patiently… I like that reminder. HIS work is finished. OURS is not. There’s a lot of work we have to do to stop trying and stop getting in His way. It takes so much on our part to rest in Him and be transformed & healed by that understanding that we are loved, it is finished, we are complete.

  24. 5-14-2013

    P.S…in my previous comment, I meant I would patiently wait for the post…(not wait patiently for the Lord or something)……but I could only sort of patiently wait because I couldn’t help but add in some ponderings about that #3

  25. 5-14-2013

    Miguels question “how do we do it right?’ wasn’t rhetorical for me, as I can relay personally and scripturaly how to balance love and truth in a church, because I live it daily.
    And daily is the key.
    First, it helps to see the church, and our local church as a marriage run up to the great wedding feast of the Lamb, because it is.
    Marriage is a daily affair, requiring hard work and choices to achieve intimacy, joy and fun, but it can be boring at times, riddled with conflicts and resolutions, failures etc.
    When strangers marry, they commit to one another, forsaking all others, and purpose to love the other fully, even if they are not loved back in kind. That’s God kind of love, and we are more capable of that than our uber-grace doctrines of Adamic helplessness and indwelling sin have fooled us to hide behind. There are testimonies throughout history of unbelievers who have long lasting, deeper and more productive daily relationships with one another than today’s church members who cant sit next to each other once a week without judging.
    We havent been taught, and havnt committed to one another, calling upon Gods grace and His indwelling love on a minute by minute basis, to overcome our own weaknesses, and lay down our lives for each other.
    We should start there.
    And when we do, we’ll find it’s infectious, and self replicating and easier as we see old unsolvable problems resolved.
    Faith, which works by love, will grow, and our children will become believers, especially in God’s ability to change human nature.
    There’s no formula, and when a church gets together to do this as one body, taking that step into the Jordan, as it were, God responds with open water, making the way possible as we go.
    If we do our part first, as He commanded, He will back us up with what only He can do.
    We want it the other way around, but God has and will let entire generations live and die without seeing a major breakthrough in this malaise we are caught in, because He wont do for us what we wont do for one another.
    Its on us.
    blessings
    Greg

  26. 5-14-2013

    but wait it IS *GOD’S* work in our hearts that make us more and more like our true selves… in HIS image and no longer our old nature, old image. So I guess I will just have to wait for that post to see what you’re talking about for #3 comment point!! :)

  27. 5-14-2013

    Randi,

    I’d say that God does continue work in us. (And, praise him that he does continue to work in us!) But this work has nothing to do with us lacking anything or him needing to give us more. Instead, it’s because we refuse to accept and use what he’s already given us. We have everything we need to love others; but we don’t do it.

    -Alan

  28. 5-15-2013

    I started off with “excuses, justifications, conditions, and finger pointing” because I, and my we, are not very loving.

    But, okay, I can see that I’m not. So let’s accept that and get on to the questions.

    1) Do you think we have a love problem?
    Yeah, sure. Quite seriously though… how could we not? Who can stand up and say “Love I have figured out, it’s only sin that I’m struggling with”? Is that not absurd?

    2) Why do you think love has taken second (or lower) place among Christians?
    You mean some Christians, right? Because every Christian knows loving Christians. You know, the ones that they like and that like them back. But there are definitely some Christians out there who aren’t very loving. For sure.

    3) What’s the answer to this problem?
    It’s God. Or I don’t know. I mean, it is God, but I don’t know how. It is God, but I don’t know when. It is Jesus, but I can’t speak for him.

    Here are some things I have noticed (but they are not enough to answer the question):

    A. Much as Randi said, it cannot be by effort (though effort may occur). A baby is born through labor, but one cannot simply labor and thereby make a life.

    B. Much as Miguel said, our expectation of love undermines our realization of love. Patronizing love which forbears to share with people what we really think is not truly loving and falls apart inevitably when the one who is being nice and loving lets slip what they really think. Love which is the suppression and elimination of bad things from our shared experiences is not love. God’s love for us encompasses and includes bad things. If it is not so, then God did not love Jesus or Stephen or Peter or Paul… you cannot engender love by doing bad things, but you do not have true love if it cannot survive bad things.

  29. 5-15-2013

    Arlen,

    Thanks for adding to the discussion here. There are certainly generalities in this post (and most posts – in general). But the premise is that the church (as a whole) is not loving. I think this is a valid premise.

    -Alan

  30. 5-17-2013

    Alan,
    I agree. I think my tone came out wrong in writing. I am frustrated by your question because I agree with the question but have no answers.

  31. 5-17-2013

    Arlan,

    I’d love your thoughts on the other posts in this series if you have time to read them.

    -Alan

  32. 7-6-2013

    Love is all there is; the bitter/the sweet , the good/the bad , the faithful/unfaithful, the rich/ the poor, the joys/the sadness ,……the “saved” / the “unsaved”……..in effect all these extremes help turn the wheels of love, for LOVE IS GOD. How can the love of God be perceived in this world…..unless……it flows from one extreme to the other?

    If our God who created ALL that is would stoop low to enough to care for the “dead” or fallen race, what makes us think that if we follow Jesus , we would have to practise “selective” love? The spirit of unconditional love left the heart of the body of Christ long ago , and till we realized that LOVING ALL IS LOVING GOD, the earthly body of our saviour may continue to exist but it will not live unto God, since the loving heart of God which spreads love throughout the whole world is absent from the body.
    If the body of Christ is the custodian of the light of God(love) worldwide, then we should blame ourselves for the current state of DARKNESS of darkness the world finds itself in.

    Let us allow the heart of God( Jesus’ principles of heavenly life) back into the Church since its the only LIFE that brings back the LIGHT of Godly LOVE back into His Earthly Body.

  33. 7-7-2013

    Franklin,

    According to Jesus the greatest commandments (and the most basic for God’s children) are love God and love others. The first “fruit” of the Holy Spirit who indwells his children is “love.” Interestingly, in almost every book of the New Testament, the authors reminded (commanded) their readers to “Love one another.” If love is so basic and important, and if the Holy Spirit produced love in us, why do you think they needed to be reminded? Why do we still need to be reminded?

    -Alan

  34. 7-8-2013

    Mr. Knox I think our fleshly mind is unable to retain this divine concept of Love , long enough to REAP the total submission and subsequent zeal for Love as portrayed by the Son of God; so we have to be kept in constant remembrance of it. However , the more we strive to leave the “comfortable” ruts of our carnal mindsets through the empowering might of the Holy Spirit, the easier it is for our SPIRITS to be shepherded into the constancy of THE WHOLE MINDSET of Christ.
    Christian Love as I see it, is a spiritual adventure of the Body of Christ thst ends in mystical union with the Greater Love of our Triune God, so if we do not get out of our carnal propensities into our Spiritual strength, how can we stay in CONSTANT TOUCH with our Spiritual Father , His Spiritual Son and Holy Spirit? In my view , we keep reminding ourselves of LOVE because we keep slipping from the Christ mindset of Godly Love to our Carnal mindsets of inordinate materialism.

  35. 7-12-2013

    Franklin,

    I agree… so let’s keep reminding each other – by word and by example – to love one another.

    -Alan

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