April 21, 2008

Feeling the Love or Knowing the Love?

Have you ever heard of the expression "Feeling the Love"? I immediately think of the Righteous Brother's song "I've Lost that Lovin Feelin". But I got to thinking about this the other day and how our culture, and yes even our churches, so often equate the term "Love" with a "feeling" or emotion. Sadly, I so often hear of how churches have somehow equated God's love with an emotion or a sensation of feeling.

For example, how often do you hear someone say "Oh how I felt the love of God today at the service" or "Wasn't it wonderful how we felt the love of God in the worship service!". I believe these expressions can be very misleading in the sense they equate "God's Love" solely on the basis of some feeling or some emotional experience. This reminds me of when I was a young teenager and whereby I had a "feeling of love" over some girl I had just met or had an interest in. This "Puppy Love" was by no means genuine love - as I was solely basing my affections or desires for this other individual strictly upon how they made me feel and not on the basis of the individuals character or personality.

We see from scripture that "God is Love" not on the basis of His emotional state, but rather God is loving and benevolent on the basis of his knowledge. God is love because in his infinite knowledge, He has determined love to be of the highest and greatest good in the moral universe. So in order for mankind to truly understand what genuine love is, we too must have knowledge of who God is - in character and personalty. It seems today however, that much of the "church experience" is just that - an experience. Many churches equate the "Love of God" on the basis of some emotional "touchy-feely" experience. If this is the case then sadly many truly do not have a genuine understanding of who God is, but rather how he makes them feel.

One can begin to quickly see the emphasis is not on God at all here, but on ME and how I am made to feel! This is truly dangerous and can often leave people disappointed or empty, especially when it comes to church or a worship experience. I personally have seen this at work at church we used to attend, where if for some reason the "worship experience" was not up to par or was a little lacking it was then equated that "God didn't show up". Ultimately this ended up requiring the worship minister to "amp it up" in order to the church members to "experience God". This is even more dangerous for the worship leader as it tends to lead the worship minister in believing they are the sole conduit to people in the church "experiencing" God. This always brings me to a question I would pose to most worship leaders and that would be "Why should anyone one worship God" or "What makes God worthy of worship?". Often their response is "Because He's God!". But this answer really comes up short - especially for someone who is a non-believer, as it gives the impression that we as Christians worship God solely on the basis of his power or abilities and nothing to do with who he IS! (As a side note when we look to scripture, this response is the same response pagan priest or ministers would often give as to why they were worshipping their idols or pagan gods).

Again, this is not to say emotions are a bad thing when we are worshipping God, but God has designed us that we are to be in control of our emotions and not to allow our emotions to control us! Emotions when used properly are always to linked to knowledge. My point in saying all of is this: What we seem to have a real lack of today in most churches is knowledge and understanding of who God truly is! Instead we have more of what I would call a "Concert Environment", whereby it is reminiscent of the rock concerts I used to attend in the 80's and early 90's. These venues were packed with people who were ready for an "experience" - lights, music, rhythm, pyrotechnics, confetti canons, etc. All instruments used to insight an emotional experience - and yet very little knowledge required. At the end of the "show" all you really had left was a ringing of the ears and a brief sense of excitement - the following morning you were still just as empty as the day before. It is my prayer that churches begin to understand and learn who God is and to have real knowledge of His character and then we will begin to truly experience the Love of God!

1 Cor 13:4-8 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

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