all we need is love

On Sunday morning a little over a week ago I was sitting in an office at the church building reading "Soul Cravings", by Erwin Raphael McManus. The office is just off of the auditorium and as I was reading I could hear the message in the background. The topic of the message was "the power of the tongue". The book I was reading was talking about how our souls crave love. The need to feel loved is central to the human condition. It was saying that when we feel unloved, or unloveable that we turn to cheap imitations of love, or we give up on love entirely. The portion I was reading at the time was talking about those who feel like they are incapable of being loved, they feel too damaged, too ugly, unloveable.

"We all long to belong. We are created to know love and to give love. Without love there is no life. To love is to be fully human.
The farther we move from community, the closer we move to violence.
Over the years we've come to expect urban violence. If we're honest with ourselves we would have to acknowledge that many of us have become desensitized to crime and violence in our inner cities and especially among the urban poor, which is probably why what happened in the quiet community of Jefferson County, Colorado, so affected the American psyche. Two teenage boys planned for over a year to ruthlessly massacre as many students and teachers at Columbine High School as possible.
If I know nothing else about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I know that they had given up on love. They no longer considered themselves a part of the human community. They cared for no one and cared about no one, not even themselves. Where there is no love, there is no value for life. When hate consumes our hearts, all we can think of, all we desire, is to destroy.
When there is disengagement from human community, there is potential for inhumanity. The human heart was not created to be a container for hate.
When we allow bitterness, jealousy, envy, racism, lust, greed, and arrogance to fuel our souls, we create an environment within us to be agents of violence."

On my drive home after service I was thinking about the young men who brought guns to school in Columbine. And I was thinking about the young man who had, just days ago, brought a gun to a mall in Omaha. I was thinking, "What happens in a person to get them to that point?"
When I got home I opened up the laptop and saw the headline that said "Shooter at Colorado mega church". I opened the article and couldn't believe what I was reading. My heart raced as I reached for the cell phone and texted a friend of mine who is on staff at New Life in Colorado. I was relieved to hear back from him that he was safe. I spent the rest of the day watching the story unfold on the news channel.
Over the past week much has been learned about the young man who took these innocent lives. We've learned that he was at one time hoping to be a missionary. He was raised in a Christian home. He was home schooled. We also learned that he railed against the church after being turned away from the missions organization. He wrote that he never felt good enough. He felt that he could never live up to the expectations. He wrote that he couldn't deal with all the rules and regulations.

I've thought a lot about the way the church presents it's message and I'm concerned that there's an inordinate amount of time spent talking about the do's and dont's, the rules and regulations, and not enough time spent talking about the extravagant love that Jesus came to give.
There's a great story about the religious rulers coming to Jesus to get his input on the raging debate about which rules were the most important. And he turned the conversation towards love. Here's another section from "Soul Cravings":
"When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment is, His response was simple and straightforward: 'You are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.' And then He added, 'And you must love your neighbor as yourself.'
It seems Jesus simply couldn't restrain Himself to one commandment, but gave His inquirers two of them. Maybe it's because He couldn't separate the effect that connecting to God would have on our relationship to people. Really Jesus is saying that the most important thing to God is love. Love, it seems, has two arenas where it's played out-in our relationship with God and in our relationships with people. What's on God's heart is not a list of rules or commands, but the expansion of love.
When we live in an intimate relationship with God, we are able to love ourselves and become passionate about loving others. When we are disconnected from God, we find ourselves increasingly empty of love.
Jesus, it seems, is certain that the more you love God, the more you will love people."

As I've been thinking back on this over the past week I keep thinking about the topic of the message that day, the power of the tongue, and the awesome responsibility that the leaders of the church have in communicating the message that God wants us to. Do we focus the message on love, or do we get caught up in the same old game of which rules were the most important?

If we focus our message on the rules and regulations are we heaping condemnation and guilt on God's children? Are the Colorado shootings the result of a message focused in the wrong direction?

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