Monday, September 9, 2013

"Loved, But Not Always Liked"

   The mention of my mother's Bible in yesterday's message reminded me of something she said to me a number of times as I was growing up.

    "Glen, I always love you. But I don't  always like you!"

    I knew precisely what she meant by these words.  I understood when she said them, and looking back on far too many moments of waywardness during my youth, I really understand them now!  Indeed, I know that I held a special and unshakable place of affection, devotion and commitment in my mother's heart.  But I'm also very aware that many times my attitudes, words, and actions were far from likable.

    I'm glad my mother told me of her abiding love, and of my waxing and waning likability.  I think it speaks directly to God's view of His trusting children in Christ.  He loves us dearly, as we all know.  The Apostle Paul references our Lord's "great love" for us (Ephesians 2:4).  Moreover, His love endures eternally.  "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).  However, our Heavenly Father is not such a sentimentalist that He ignores or looks past the times when, internally or externally, we do not reflect the character, nature, and way of the Christ who lives within us.  Attitudes, words, and acts of unbelief and disobedience displease Him, as well they should.  They also lead to disciplinary action on God's part if we do not respond to the Holy Spirit's convicting and correcting action on behalf of God's glory, and our best interest.  Such chastening, while the fruit of Divine displeasure, nevertheless confirms our Heavenly Father's love for us no less than His more tender ministrations of devotion.

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24).
   "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).

    My mother taught me much as she reared me, including the truth that parental pleasure and displeasure actually exist as branches of the same tree of genuine love.  Children need both the caress and the chastening, including God's trusting children in Christ.  We do well to encourage each other regarding the former, and warn each other concerning the latter.  Again, our Lord is not a sentimentalist who, as one writer suggested, "acts like the kindly old grandfather who just wants the young people to be happy."  No, God is love, and love always - always - meets the need in whatever manner best administers the supply.  This is why we rightly cherish Him.  And this is why we rightly fear Him.  Yes, He loves us enough to be eternally pleased that we are His sons and daughters in Christ.  And, He loves us enough to be displeased when we do not act like it.

We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
(Hebrews 12:9-11)

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