Monday, May 24, 2021

A Gospel of Prosperity

There's a certain trouble when we say that perhaps God has placed us in this particular time and place in order to teach us something about His love, in order just to love us. It's troubling to most Christians to say that maybe God doesn't have anything for you to do here, except to just be loved by Him. We shake our heads, lower our eyes, and say, "No, no. That can't be right." 

Because we're afraid to have a faith that has as its greatest mark nothing more than God's love for us. 'Nothing more,' as if the love of God is such a small thing. 

We're afraid that if we talk about how God loves us or if we lean into it at all or if we even expect God to be good to us and to show us His love, we are immediately lumped into the camp of those who expect God to make their lives materially wealthy. We fear we will be seen as persons who want God for nothing more than His blessings - a nice car, a good job, a big house, a beautiful spouse, a fat bank account. You know, all the outward marks of the 'good' life. 

But those of us who know what the love of God truly is know that being loved by God is not an outward mark on the life; it's an inward one. 

Being loved by God isn't manifested in material wealth. Not as its primary expression. We are not living an Old Testament faith, but a New Testament one. We are not tied to only what we can see, for we know for certain that there is something more beyond what our eyes can show us. We have seen it, though as in a mirror darkly. 

Being loved by God is...being comfortable and confident in your own skin. It's been satisfied in the depths of your soul. It's having all worry and care stripped away and dwelling in a joy that cannot be shaken. It's trusting, with every breath, the Giver of that breath and knowing the One in whose image you are made. It's being loved by God that enables us to do the good that God calls us to do in the world. And this is why we have to be careful about how we live in the places where He has put us. 

If we're living in a place where we think we are doing for God and then we happen to feel loved by Him, then we come to quietly develop a faith that is rooted in our doing. We connect God's love for us with our doing for Him. We believe He loves us because of how we live, and not the other way around (that we live how we live because He loves us). Despite all of our talk to the contrary, most Christians today still live this kind of faith - where God's love comes second in our relationship with Him and whatever we do to earn it comes first. 

Again, it's because we're afraid of becoming a people of the prosperity gospel. It's because we're afraid of creating the impression that God just so loved the world. Period. We don't want God to seem cheap, so we're afraid to make love free. But at the very heart of the real Gospel? Free indeed. 

The heart of God's story is that He loves His people. Period. That God so loved the world. Period. That God sent His Son to die for sinners who had not done anything good or righteous or honorable to earn it. Period. The heart of God's story is that He loves us. 


And that has to mean - it has to - that wherever we are, whenever we're there, whatever we're engaged in, our primary experience of our place and time has got to be that God loves us. He just loves us. The number one thing God wants you to know at any given point in your own story is just how much He loves you. For real. 

We have to stop being ashamed of this. We have to stop pretending this isn't it. This is it. This is what God's been telling us from the very beginning. This is why He sent His Son to bear our Cross. Not because He thought that some day, He might use us to bring food to a struggling neighbor or to counsel an addict in need of a way out, but purely, simply, wholly because He loves us. Period. 

And if our faith is not attesting to that at every moment, with every breath, then not only are we doing it wrong, but we're missing something. Something incredible. Something vital. 

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