I consider it tragic when people walk away from God. Sometimes they leave in a huff, sometimes they’ve intellectually wrestled, sometimes they dive into crazy sin and blow up their lives. Whatever the story, they are no longer walking with God, and that’s sad.
I’ve seen a pattern, though. This may give you hope. Wendy and I see this time and time again. Any separation between man and God can be attributed to a lack of love. Look around the life of the person who blows up his or her life: love is difficult to find. Love got lost in the shuffle somewhere long ago.
I put this to the test last week when a Christian leader announced he had an affair. (What else is new, right?) I asked: Where in the fortress of this leader was there talk of the Greatest Commandment? I went to the front page of the organization he resigned from — a dozen projects, issues and events listed — and did a simple word search for “love.” The only summary that mentions “love” is the leader’s resignation letter, his personal appeal to his followers for “mercy and love” for his betrayal.
My first thought was “hypocrite,” but my second thought was “good for him.” Perhaps he’s relearning the importance of that which he and his ministry were missing: love. So many other good things tend to get in its way — missions, projects, fundraising, conferences — they sound like such great ideas, but without love, they boil us alive. Before long, we are nearly dead with dogmatism and dysfunction, love nowhere in sight. If this leader rediscovers the great depths of the radical love of Christ, then God will be in on it and something great could come of the lives wrecked by his affair.
I also see this pattern in lower-profile situations. One is of a former student of mine who, on the surface, is angry with God. He and I have had rich conversations, but he’s struggling with some genuine relational hurdles that he finds bothersome. Here’s what I find encouraging: this young adult has a deep heart of compassion and love for people. He’s justifiably ticked at people who treat others wrong. His doubts about God stem from the lack of love from the so-called Christians in his life. Funny, I believe God is love (1 John 4:8), so though he is denying God’s love, he’s still running with God whether he believes it or not.
I find this fairly common among atheists. “There is no God” is often coupled with intense humanitarian works and genuine compassion for others. I wonder sometimes if atheists are lashing out at God like they think. Perhaps they are lashing out at religion, dogmatism, and its proud leaders. In these ways, they are more Christlike than the most pious religious leaders. Who knows? Maybe God is more for them than against them.
There is a pattern here, don’t you see it? You probably see it in your family. For me, every single squabble or fight we have (sibling vs sibling, parent vs parent, parent vs child) can be attributed to a lack of love. Wendy and I have found that when we focus on love, solutions to the fights work their way out. A quick read and application of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 solves a lot of problems in our household.
Remember: LOVE is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). This reality slaps us up now and then. The trials, heartbreaks, disillusions, confusion, and turmoil in life can often be whittled down to a lack of love in our lives. Someone along the way failed to love, it is as simple as that.
Jesus Christ spoke, lived, died and rose on love. For those who lost the true way (or are disillusioned by those who have), a rebirth may be right around the corner. God is love, and we should let this truth direct our path. When all you have left are faith, hope and love, just remember that the greatest of these is love. Start building — or rebuilding — on that.
Wendy and I learned this years ago. We lose step now and then, but Love is patient and kind with us. You may not know this of our family, but we left a dysfunctional movement nearly a decade ago, and we’ve written quite a bit about our journey. The experience led to a relearning of love that has forever changed our family for the better. Though it was a heartbreaking journey in many ways, we do not regret any of it, and we wish everyone I knew would discover the same in their life journey.
If this strikes a chord with you, I recommend these books, two of which were extremely helpful to our rebirth, and one of them written by my Wendy and me:
- Love in the House by Chris & Wendy Jeub
- Leading With Love by Alexander Strauch
- Repenting of Religion by Gregory Boyd