“It’s pretty hard to consistently disobey someone you love deeply and passionately.”
I have a confession: I’m struggling with how we usually present what God expects of us.
I grew up with The Four Spiritual Laws. I recall one youth service when a friend of mine was speaking, and he had the small golden booklet in his possession. In its pages the plan of salvation was presented—and presented well. The last portion of the booklet was written to “smarten up” any Christians who had given their hearts to Jesus but were slacking. There was a nice illustration to help with this particular theory, in which a Christian’s life was depicted as a circle with a chair or throne in the centre. In one diagram, Jesus (represented by a cross) is on the throne. In the other diagram self is on the throne, represented by an “S.” The point being this: when Jesus is at the centre of your life, He is Lord of your life. Either self is lord or Jesus is Lord—one or the other. This seemed to be appropriate. There were Bible verses to back it up as well as the hit ’70s single “He is Lord.” The song’s second verse went on to proclaim, “He’s my Lord,” which meant you had kicked self off the throne and placed Jesus there.
Now the lordship of Jesus is obviously not at issue. He is Lord. He needs to be Lord of our lives. His lordship is important. He has no rivals. If we make Him Lord—or, better, surrender to His lordship—we will arrive. Won’t we? That is, after all, what Jesus is really after, isn’t it?
It’s time to tell you my problem. While not questioning the real and ultimate lordship of Jesus, I’m not sure that His lordship is His primary expectation of us. Stick with me for a moment and I will explain.
What if God is more of a Lover than a Lord? What if God is more concerned with our love response than with our obedience? “Whoa! Can you actually separate them?” you ask. I suspect you can. I think it is very possible to be obedient to someone you do not love. Think of the police officer standing on the side of the road with a speed gun in his hand—instant obedience, but probably not much love. I doubt, however, that the opposite is true. It’s pretty hard to consistently disobey someone you love deeply and passionately.
I also think this is the plot of the Bible. The Bible is the story of God seeking a lover. It is the story of the love of God for people and people’s love response back to God. I think it’s interesting that when the prophets referred to the sin of Israel, they used the illustration of divorce or adultery. The analogy leads to some rather, shall I say, risqué passages. (Ezekiel 16 is one of those passages. Go ahead, have a read!) Then, when you get to the end of the Bible, the angel tells John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9b).
The point is, God loves us and wants us to focus on His love for us and on our love for Him. In Colossians 1:16 we read that we have been created for Jesus. In Ephesians 1:4 we’re told that we have been chosen in love. Gregory Boyd, in his book Repenting of Religion, writes: “God is not first and foremost interested in acquiring a people who happen to believe all the right things and act in all the right ways. God’s first concern, and really his only concern, is to have a people who are united with Him in love.”
Lordship is almost second nature for someone whom we love passionately. When God leads us into deeper intimacy, the lordship question disappears because of love. It’s not that we purposefully or even intentionally seek to surrender to His lordship. It is something that grows out of a love for God and His presence.
What if God’s lordship is the essence of His being, while God as lover is the passion of His heart? Is it not easier to have a relationship with a lover than with a lord? The image of a lord conveys the idea of “Obey me or duck!” The image of a lover conveys a relationship that is tender and caring.
I have one more “what if” before you flip to another article.
What if our propensity to portray Jesus as LORD affects how we look at and treat other people? Take a look around the mall, the local big-box store, or even your local church. There’s a whole bunch of people who are not measuring up. They are simply dropping the ball. They have obviously missed the “He’s my Lord” verse, and they need to be told that and treated accordingly. Is it possible that our penchant toward judging others and setting a high standard for them grows out of our sense that God is doing that to us? God is judging us, so we judge others.
Back in the January 1, 1945, issue of The Pentecostal Testimony, A. G. Ward wrote of the release of his new book, Through the Days with the Song of Solomon, with these words:
“And now in the Name of lily lover Lord, the Bridegroom of my soul, I commit to the keeping of the Church in general, and of our beloved Pentecostal Movement in particular, the lessons taught me from the ‘Song of Songs’ in the school of the Holy Ghost.”
Ah, lily lover Lord! Is this not a fascinating title Mr. Ward has given to the King of kings and Lord of lords?
Peter Cusick pastors St. Thomas Pentecostal Assembly in St. Thomas, Ont. He writes, travels, teaches, and continues his education and training in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction.
. Gregory Boyd, Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 79.
. The Pentecostal Testimony, Volume 26, No. 1, January 1, 1945, 20.
Illustration: © iStock
This article appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.