Quote Me: True Love is Not Mercenary


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8 thoughts on “Quote Me: True Love is Not Mercenary

    • I don’t believe so. I understand the quote in this way. God is worthy of worship before he speaks the first creative word. He is worthy whether He chooses to redeem or not. We ought not love God for what we can get from Him, like the two sons in the parable of “the prodigal son.” (Pastor Tim Keller explains this well in his book “The Prodigal God.” Both sons loved the father for what he could give them, not for who he is.) John Piper also has some astute words on the subject. Salvation, he argues, is not an end, but a means to an end. God saves His children /so that/ the relationship with Him can be restored. God Himself is the greatest gift He can give. To pose the distinction as a question, do we love God because He saved us from punishment or do we love salvation because it gives us access to Him? C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere that it is God’s mercy He accepts our first feeble attempts at love for Him, though they are really ill-disguised grasps for self-preservation but it is the marks of God’s continued grace that we move beyond mercenary love, to true love. We love first from need, then from adoration.

      Does that help explain the quote better? Thanks for asking about it! Here is a favorite quote of mine from John Piper:
      “The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? …people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God.”
      –John Piper. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself

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      • Yes, good explanation, good thoughts. I must wad these things up and put them in my proverbial pipe to smoke for a while.

        God is indeed worthy of worship inherently and by nature of Him being God. Period.

        God presented Himself to us in certain ways- including as the Giver of gifts, the Savior of sinners, the Good which satisfies our every need. I’m not convinced of the value of dividing the gift from the Giver. It’s like a teeny tiny aftertaste of gnosticism; that’s what I’m wrestling with here.

        God is indeed the greatest gift He could give us. And He gives Himself to us, and for us. So in loving God for what- for Who- He is, I think we also love Him for what He bestows. And in loving Him for what He bestows, we are loving Him for Who He is.

        I’m thinking aloud here.

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      • I think I understand your point and am enjoying this “passing of the pipe,” haha.

        I think it is precisely this danger of separating the gift from the Giver, that is at stake here. Proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel” seperate the gift from the Giver when they “bring people to God” for the purpose of gaining wealth and earthly happiness. Legalists seperate the gift from the Giver when they uplift righteousness as the chief end of man, pursuing the crown but not the King.

        But when we love the Giver first, His gifts serve to bring us closer to Him. We love them because they are signed by His hand.

        God did indeed create and redeem to /magnify/ His glory. He wrote a story, He sung a song, He painted a living picture, that we might see what He means when He says He “is love.” God always acts in perfect accordance with His character. “We love Him for what He bestows.” Hm, yes, perhaps so, if this statement is carefully defined. We love His gifts because that is how we grasp who He is.

        Does this seem logical or have I muddied the water?

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      • I’m enjoying it too. It’s fun wrangling with theological issues like this.

        You’re certainly spot-on regarding the prosperity “gospel.” It’s not good to enjoy/appreciate/worship the gift as distinct from the Giver, or to seek the gift instead of seeking the Giver.

        God calls us to worship Him by thanksgiving. Thanks-giving for what? For Who He is and for what He has done and given.

        So, in loving God for Who He is, isn’t part of that thanking Him for and enjoying what He bestows?

        In other words, if God *is* the Giver, then in loving Him for Who He is, doesn’t that mean we are also loving Him for His giverness?

        In other words, if a dad gives his kid a gift, the kid should love him, and if he doesn’t, he should love him. But if he does, then the kid doesn’t need to try to separate the gift from the giver. Sure, he shouldn’t love the gift itself compared to the giver of the gift, but part of why he loves his father would be the giverness of his father.

        So if by “what He bestows” we are referring to the actual stuff He gives us- “Man, I love this car!”- then I totally agree with the quote.

        But if by “what He bestows” we are referring to the fact that God is the Giver, I think loving Him for what He bestows is part of loving Him for Who He is.

        I think I’m straining at a gnat here… hopefully I’m not doing it at the expense of any camel sandwiches. But there it is. 😀

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      • To some this discussion would seem like straining a gnat but then again, most are unfamiliar with the precision that marks sound, orthodox theology and confuse the two.

        I think you are absolutely right to say we love God both for who He is and for what He bestows and that giving is part of the character of God that we rightly love. God delights in our dependence on Him. He glories in overwhelming us with gifts and calls us to praise Him not only for who He is but what He has done. But the quote says “more” not “only,” so I think the sense of it is a refutation of “God-as-cosmic-vending-machine,” which is what I first liked about it. This would be why the word “mercenary” is used in contrast to “true love.” True love is not manipulative, demanding reward for labor or gifts in exchange for devotion. It is indeed a picture of a father/son relationship as opposed to a hired servant.

        So to hopefully bring out the fine chisel, I’d say we love Him largely because of what He bestows but not to obtain what He bestows. We love that He bestows but that is not a condition for our affection.

        Does that seem a fair explanation of the quote? I think that the first sentence must be interpreted by the second to avoid opposite error.

        Liked by 1 person

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