Explication Of Christian Love: What It Means To Receive Jesus

Doubt in the purpose and deity of Christ is a prevalent theme in today’s world. Many times condescended by a castigating skepticism, Christianity can become the contemporary joke for modern folklore, reprimanded for its largely misunderstood and underestimated call to love others, as well as to receive unconditional, eternal love from God.

There seem to be several common denominators for this love relationship between humankind and God. Among them, I believe unmitigated disgust with the ambiguity of human purpose is ranked very highly. I believe, at least in part, there is confusion about the message of God’s love, and that the confusion was brought about by the religiously pious—even in the days Jesus walked the Earth. The very attitude which defined Jesus’ manhood and simultaneously set Him as God Incarnate—His gentle, confident, knowledgeable, infinitely loving nature—is what the religiously pious completely lose sight of. In missing this, those who are quick to judge and slow to love, while claiming to be highly religious, have shunned people– generation to generation—from being fully receptive to Jesus’ unabated love. With knowledge comes pride; people learn about God and sometimes grow proud of their understanding. Rather than apply the knowledge, they abuse it, losing sight of the wisdom derived from humility. They forget to extend Godly love to the needy because they forget they are among the needy, themselves.

Unmerited judgment from these theologically confused, pious believers can feel an awful lot like a contradiction of the love Jesus calls us into, and an intrusion of hypocrisy. Furthermore, when someone who claims to be close to God acts in this way, their distorted expression of love defines religion in the eyes of the weary and the lost, and when an unbeliever experiences the haughty of religion behaving like know-it-alls—rather than experiencing unconditional love from someone living in the hope of Christ’s love, the prospect of faith appears to surrender to fallacy; blood-soaked in religious discrimination, which Jesus never taught.

Forgiveness of sins is definitely a hard topic to uncover, but the heart of the issue is that we are commanded to forgive others in order that God will forgive us. Now, instead of jumping to the conclusion, “I thought it was said that Jesus forgives us no matter what?” This command to forgive others is for the benefit of us seeing how detrimental our bitterness is in the context of our relationship to God; in the context of understanding our sin compared to His perfection. God has forgiven us through Christ–IF we receive, in our hearts, that promise through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His forgiveness is a promise if we receive Jesus’ love sincerely. However, the reception of His promise of forgiveness requires our humility, repentance, and the desire to move forward in His love; away from our desire to satisfy ourselves with indulgence and greed.

Receiving His love does not mean we forget we ever desired to satisfy our sin with greed and indulgences; in fact, we’ll likely fall many, many more times before we see Him again. The difference is that we do not treat our sin with nonchalance and a numbness of spirit anymore. Receiving Jesus’ love means we understand the weight of His holiest promise: eternal life in the presence of God. In understanding its weight, we are transformed by the love that saves us from an eternal life separated from God, and the peace and joy which comes from that promise is what brings our souls to life in a way nothing else ever could. That is the reason why Christianity is humbling: no matter how much we feel the pride of Jesus’ love covering our entire lives, that is NEVER a reason to be condescending, careless, or nonchalant about our words and actions. We can always refer back to Christ, who lived a perfect life, and ask for strength. There is no excuse for us to justify sin when we accept Jesus; only the humility to confess the sin in openness and transparency with Him, and try our hardest to do better moving forward. Pride is justification; humility is striving to do better without so much as an explanation other than “I didn’t mean to cause you harm. Forgive me, I’ll try harder from now on.” The voice of humility is a complement of receiving Jesus in our hearts.

Jesus’ love also translates into the acceptance of who we are as individuals. He always sees every facet of our being; flaws, strengths, the number of hairs on our head, the number of tears we’ve cried, and the number of times we have sinned or will ever sin. And He doesn’t see us with a sigh of disappointment or a loud moan of frustration; He sees us with everlasting love and mercy. Why? What did we do to deserve such fantastic love from the God of the Bible? Nothing. We have never done–nor could we ever do anything. We are loved because He created us to be loved by Him. He chose to love us, and that is why He created us. Think of it this way–parents don’t make babies intentionally just to dispose of them or scoff at them; they procreate so they can spoil the child with love! God wants to spoil us with His love, because we are His children. We don’t always see it that way because we’re busy focusing on everything but His blessings.

These are some of the truths of His blessings:

  1. If you’re breathing without suffocating, it’s a gift from God.
  2. If you can swallow without choking, it’s a gift from God.
  3. if you can move with excruciating pain, it’s a gift from God.
  4. If you can smell, taste, touch, hear, or see the world around you–these are all gifts of God.
  5. If you’re alive–your life is a gift from God!

Think about this the next time you’re sure you aren’t being blessed. And if you are experiencing all of the items in the list above as unchecked, are you being supported by friends or family who want to see you through to your recovery? Are you alone in your journey to healing? If so, your support system is a gift from God.

Please hear me, I do not mean to belittle anyone who is experiencing any kind of pain, or to dismiss anyone’s pain as worthless. My point, and what I would hope you might take from my words–is that God has bestowed us with SO many blessings, we would honesty have to make excuses in order to not give Him credit where it is due. We all experience pain. But we all experience the love of God, as well. He does not leave us empty-handed, even when it may seem like it sometimes.

Experiencing the love of Christ means loving others the way we know Jesus would. Even though you can’t heal people, you can pray for them, you can show them kindness, thoughtfulness, mercy, patience, understanding, grace—and above all, you can tell them about the one inspiring you to be that way. Christianity is a not a faith of the ego, but an ego-check. Christianity is not about egocentrism; what’s in our hearts must be shared because it’s too invigorating, too important, and too purposeful to keep to ourselves. The love of Christ is the key to the lock of our soul—a key we didn’t even know existed before we realized our hearts were locked shut with doubt, shame, regret, and the excuse of transient pleasures masking the wounds of our empty hearts. We need Jesus more than we realize.

Without faith, the whole world looks very different. When I was an atheist, I appreciated very little about my surroundings. I was heavily enamored with the desire for lust because human relationship filled the hole in my soul where I resisted my need for God presence. There was nothing as ecstatic as the idea of a romantic relationship, because human love is a bridge to–and representative of– our love with Christ–hence Jesus is the “groom” of the church, with the church (community of all Christ-followers) is the “bride”. That said, I was only seeing the first half of the equation. Lust was all that mattered to me; Christ was just a distant religious joke that made as much sense as pickles and mustard. Very different from what I understand now as a Christian.

My understanding of both sides of the fence is what inspires me to write this to you, so that you would understand someone like me, who once viewed Christianity with facetious mockery, now worships the deity of Christ because I understand the importance of Jesus’ love as more significant and purposeful than the void of an Godless life, where purpose is only moment-to-moment, defined by society and instant gratification; not life everlasting through Jesus calling me to action through love, grace, and forgiveness.

Where instant gratification gives me what I want now, it simultaneously strips me of retaining my sense of meaning and purpose once the satisfaction wears off. Instant gratification is like a drug/alcohol buzz: once the buzz is over, everything wrong with the world comes flooding back into my mind. That is empirical evidence in direct opposition of the ideology of selfish pleasures masquerading as the definition of purpose in life. Believing in selfish ambition as the replacement for “What else is there to live for?” is just as empty and vacuous as a picture without any hint of dexterity. Art can’t be art without the artist; likewise, life isn’t life without its Creator—and humanity didn’t create itself. Making up as many as thousands of excuses as to how humanity arrived on the scene of Earth is not as fulfilling as believing that a loving God created us to be fulfilled in the promise of His love; once accepting that following His love also commands us to to love others the same way—forgiving them and treating them with the same kindness and mercy God did when He came down in the flesh as Jesus. We could argue all day about where humanity comes from, but at the end of the day, the question may actually deviate from the point of a scientific origin story and culminate with a theology that invites us into a purpose both worthy of striving for, and exciting to embrace.

What I want to leave you with is that there is more to Christianity than the judgment you may have experienced. The love of Christ is so much more important than someone correcting your wrongs by condemning you. We need to check the log in our own eyes before we pick at the spec in others’ eyes. As much as we need not let someone do that to us, we also need to be encouraged not to close ourselves off from receiving love from those who understand Christ’s call to love us as brothers and sisters of God’s family. That is what we’re being called into, and that is what we embrace as Christians.

If you have any questions you would like answered–whether about this post or what you might like addressed for a Part 2, please leave those questions in the comments below. If you enjoy reading these posts and would like to read more, please feel free to follow my blog and share it with others you think would benefit from reading about the message of Christ. I am passionate to tell you about what Christ’s love has done for me, and what it’s still doing, as well as to clarify so many confusions about the Christian faith. In the end, what happens from clarity is there is a transformation of the heart from rock hard to soft and open, and that is when Jesus can enter. That is what I want for you, as a Christian writer; that you may experience the love of Christ in your heart when you’re most vulnerable and susceptible to feel it completely.

May you be blessed while reading this and I pray you walk away with some newfound understanding that you may not have had. In the very least, I hope you are reminded that Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done, and it’s up to you whether or not you receive that love and live into its promise to transform you from the inside. Jesus is the key; the answer. Will you let Him be that for you? If so, let this be a new day for you. If not, may He help you to understand and embrace that His love is everlasting, compassionate, confident; steadfast and eternal. He will never stop loving you, even if you can’t believe He already does.

Let that soak in. May He transform you, if that is your desire today. In Jesus name.

Transformation

Father and Son: What Matters Most

My dad reads my blog, and that alone makes me a very proud writer. I don’t think I’m perfect, and I know I’ll never be perfect (I’m always rewriting, editing, changing, and rethinking the changes and re-edits). But my dad reads every word and always has positive feedback. He always has encouragement to give me, and words of love and wisdom; extensions of himself which allow me the space to both be myself and to extend beyond myself in my own choice of words. He knows the purpose of my blog is to proclaim the Truth of Jesus, and he knows how important it is to me to reach readers, whether Christian or not. And when he speaks to me in that space, he speaks into my most deepest desires as a writer with compassion and concern. There is nothing held back, but there is nothing to hold back; he loves me for who I am and why I do what I do. He knows that the reason I want to write is not about popularity or fame, but to extend myself to every person so that they might be inspired and encouraged to find the love of Jesus in their hearts. And, because of this, he wants me to succeed. He doesn’t want me to succeed just to become popular; he cares to see that I become the best at what I love doing.

That… is what a father does.

I love my dad. Many years ago, when my parents divorced, our relationship was strained. There were many, many years that passed that I could only describe poignantly in hindsight. Our relationship was, in my words: stagnant, and unprogressive, and unnatural. That is not to his fault, since I know he was going through so much already as a man. But, you see, I was able to see that after looking back on that time, when I became a Christian.

For the longest time, I didn’t feel anything for my dad because I didn’t feel emotionally engaged with him. There were many years that passed before that aspect to our relationship began to show itself. During the in-between time, he tried to get me to church just so that I would keeping the concept of God in my heart, but I was very defiant and obstinate with regards to faith. God didn’t make sense: why would a God give me parents who weren’t meant to be together just so they could divorce, ruin all that I was used to and cherished as a happy life, and then say, “Come on back to worship me, the one tearing your life to shreds.” If that was God, then I was having no part in it. Atheism set in and, needless to say, at the time, made perfect sense.

Mom and dad raised all of us kids Catholic (I have three older siblings), putting us all through the same Catholic elementary, middle, and high schools. That experience was utterly exhausting, excruciatingly judgmental and non-accepting of the transitions I was experiencing at home. My favorite moments of each day, no idioms here–were walking from my car to the school in the mornings, and my walks back to the car from the school in the afternoon. That was it. Everything else faded away in the gloss of agony, despair, rage, depression; the atheistic back-drop of my disappointing existence.

During this time, I didn’t feel like my dad was really there. I believe he was doing what he needed to do to continue on the journey of life he was on, and he didn’t know how to respond or reach out to yet another child’s response to family drama. Honestly, I don’t blame him, because I believe everything happens for a reason. I had to grow into the man I am today in a different way than other men do. My dad was never absent or ever abusive, he was there every day; but I chose to go in my room and close the door. Do I wish he would have come to me and tried breaking in to my bubble of darkness? Yes. I can never blame my dad for being a bad father, or claim he never tried to love me. What I can say is that it took me about 15 years to understand and comprehend his way of loving me, and to step into that understanding and embrace the way he had always loved me— so that I could feel it for myself as his son. That was the most precious part of our relationship, for me, as father and son: learning to feel loved by him when I had felt so distant for so many years before.

There is nothing of blame here—I absolutely love my dad, words could never capture adequately enough the love I have for my dad. Do I wish he had broken through the wall of my rebellion and stepped into my struggles more intimately with me while I was in them? Sure. I often wonder what may have changed for the better earlier on in my life if he had. But that is not regret or resentment speaking. That is an observation I’ve made after accepting that there was a reason why my dad operated the way he did as a father during that season of my life. There are reasons for our relationship making the twists and turns that it did in order for it to arrive where it is today… and where we are today, I am more grateful than I could ever explain.

For the sons out there—- if your dad left before you were born, or if they were too busy to give you a few moments of their time to let you know with their love, patience, smiles, hugs, and time spent wrestling or playing ball outside (my dad taught me to ride a bike and throw a ball–) just how much you were always loved, and how much you deeply mattered to them– I am so sorry that you never experienced manhood from your dad. That is traumatic, and wrong. Fathers are meant to embrace their role and carry us through all our childhood years by their presence, love, confidence, emotional dependability, wisdom to answer our struggles with compassion, and simultaneously feed us the zeal to overcome our fears and bullies. Fathers are the ones who teach us how to stick it out to the boys who try to tear us down. They lift us up when we are sad, and they give us a reason to want to keep going when the world tries to tell us to forfeit all of our will.

They are not meant to leave you to become a man on your own, and they are not meant to leave you to define your own purpose in your life, nor leave open the void of validation for others to fill; such as women, sex, drugs, alcohol, workaholism, materialism, and self-doubt. If this is all you know, you have my sympathy. You also have my extension of courage and motivation to not let that be the end of your story. When I had had it with not only Catholicism, but all religion, I became an atheist. For seven years, I looked at the world and saw darkness, loneliness, hatred, and disgust. They were very, very dark, saddening years; empty of all passion for life. I was fragile, sensitive, stubborn, and overly analytical. It’s not a big mystery to me that my dad didn’t seem to reach out more when all I seemed to want was space.

But that wasn’t the end of my story. After those seven years, I was even more tired of the absence of meaning in my life than I had been the betrayal of the image of a happy life with one, undivided family. As a 21-year-old, I was curious. Not seeking the Jesus I was raised with in Catholicism, but curious. I had been reminded of in a cacophony of guilt, shame, and accusatory insinuations that people– including me–were the cause of Jesus’ death. Therefore the main point of Catholicism to me, from where I was standing as a young adolescent with a divorcing family– was that I was to blame for Jesus’ crucifixion, and that I should seek forgiveness for something I never understood. That was Catholicism for my entire childhood, and by the time the divorce happened, I didn’t feel any love of God. I just felt blamed. Atheism made much more sense. I didn’t need guilt about a God that didn’t make any sense to me having died because of me. That was the final straw for me, and the beginning of seven years of denial.

After that, God Himself led me to Florida, where I met a man of God who was open and inviting about faith. Jesus met me in Florida, because He knew I wouldn’t meet Him in Michigan (where I was born). It was there that my faith began; from just the seed of mere curiosity, and not for anything specific, but just for something to fill in the blank; a generic response to a vague concept. Funny, what I received in response to the desire for something so simple and undeterminable was the most complex, sophisticated, intricate, and satisfying (over the course of 8 years and still going) answer I could have ever tried to imagine. And it was in this Godzilla of a response that I discovered, through much difficult question and answer sessions with friends, spiritual guides/mentors/pastors/prayer partners/life groups, that a father like mine could love me the way he did. God revealed to me, after taking me out of a place I was refusing to see Him in and placing me in a location much more stable and rectifying of my anger and doubts– that not only had my dad always loved me, but that–just as I was blind to see God in my life through the work of Jesus Christ for all those years–I was just as blind to see my own father loving me on earth despite my walled-up presence and desire for isolation.

What a miracle that was! Imagine my response when I realized that not only was there a God (who just so happened to become flesh, die, and resurrect so that I could be with Him in Heaven when I die), but that my earthly dad loved me for all the years when I was hiding in my room hating life and all the pain that was driving me away from joy.

Now, today, in 2016, Jesus is my joy. I’m on fire for God, ready to accept challenges and always pondering what He’s doing each and every day. And along the way, I have a blog where I can share myself with others, asking questions to the world that I have also faced at one time or another–or may still be facing now–to inspire people to better their own spirituality, knowing full well how my own story could easily relate to others who have experienced trauma, and turned away from theology and Jesus. My dad knows ALL OF THIS, and he loves me for why I do what I do.

That… is what a dad does.

Does your dad do that? If he doesn’t, could you bring that to his attention? If you are a believer of Jesus, have you tried talking to you earthly father about your Father in Heaven? If you aren’t a Christ-follower, even in your unbelief, can you speak the truth to your dad that you need him to show you how he really feels, so that you can feel whole as you confront a life full of unknowns? If your dad has abused you, can you turn to a healthy father-figure and ask them to be your inspiration, your role model, your word of wisdom and crutch while you don’t understand life quite yet? This is what a father does. If your dad can’t or won’t, will you find one who will?

God the Father loves every single human being, because He uniquely made each and every one of us. Jesus died for you so you could live in radical joy of the hope to come. Will you lean into that promise, that love–that joy–and express it to others around you?

Fathers, will you lean in to your children and love them in every way you have read about here, and more?

Dad, I love you. Thank you for being a dad I can love with all my heart, pushing me to the next step. I’m very thankful for you.