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WHAT DOES TRUE LOVE LOOK LIKE? By Precious CK.

There’s a song written by Misty Edwards, a worship leader at Mick Bickle’s International House of Prayer Kansas City (IHOPKC) in Missouri, USA. I first heard it one long cold winter night as I tuned into their Worship & Prayer room that streams online, 24/7, every day of the year. I love that room because the local, physical church always closes its doors but IHOP is always open if you happen to have an internet connection and feel the need to be in the presence of the Lord at any time of any day.

Misty, in her earnest and smokey voice, sang these words:

“What does love look like?”

Is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”
“What does love look like?”

Is the question I’ve been asking of You.

 

***

“Those things are not for us,” he said as he sipped his drink.

It was a warm afternoon and we’d decided to have a late lunch to catch up after a while. I had just explained to him how the Israelite prophet Elisha in the Old Testament was hated by their enemy, the king of Aram, because God kept telling Samuel what this Aramean king said in his bedroom as he spoke of his plans against Isreal! (2 Kings 6:8-23)

“There was also Imotep’s (an ancient Egyptian king) daughter who also had the power to see things and warn of invasions. Also, do you even know what ‘Amen’ really means? It is taken from the Egyptian gods Amen-Ra and basically means ‘let it be kept hidden’ so you guys don’t even know what you are saying!”

By ‘you guys’ he meant ‘Christians’. I am someone who has believed in and loved Christ Jesus for a long time and I have always preferred to subscribe to the late great Myles Munroe’s view that believers should think of and refer to themselves as children/sons of God, not Christians, because the latter limits us to the worldly religious understanding of the word, Christian. It is not a word that the Apostles used to refer to themselves (it’s actually only found twice in the New Testament) and instead, as Paul expounds in Romans 8, we are ALL children of God now. Not even the demarcation of Sons and Daughters is made by Paul because, in my opinion, there is a worldly (mainly African) tendency to minimalise daughters. Therefore we are all children of God and co-heirs with Christ, and those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God – note that it is not sons and daughters of God, but sons, equal in status and inheritance.

I patiently listened to this friend of mine and the main thrust of his argument was that Christianity is a colonialist tool used to keep us under the domination of the Western world. He said that Africa is the source of all life and that the garden of Eden is actually on the border of Rwanda and Uganda. He continued to insist that, as Africans, we should not subscribe to the myth of Jerusalem or of a Jewish Saviour because ‘those things are not for us’ since we have our own gods and our own stories, stories which were the original ones and were just copied into the bible – he referred to a book written by an American professor who points out many stories in tribal myths that were written way before the story of the Jewish saviour and elements of which appear in Jesus’s story, meaning they were copied and pasted into the bible. He then suggested I get to know a rasta goddess with Rwandan/Ugandan origins as this goddess is what our ancestors in the west of Uganda, where I am from, worshipped.

This is an argument that baffled me because, at the time, I had never encountered it and it was hard to have a counter-argument if the very basis of my argument – Christ Jesus & the Word of God – was considered false.

As he ranted on that afternoon, I started to speak to this Christ who my friend so despised. I spoke to Him in my heart, where I know He resides. I told Him that I could not find a rebuttal to this practised argument. I told Him that He was the Christ I knew, not the distant blued-eyed Jew whom my friend rejected simply on the grounds of skin colour and country of origin, but the Christ who lived in my heart, who provided comfort, peace, friendship, guidance and more  on a moment by moment basis. As I tuned out my friend’s rant, I could hear a silent question in my heart – and then what?

I knew exactly what my Jesus was communicating to me. If we were to reject the whole premise of salvation on the basis of Jesus not being of African origin and therefore decided to return to the gods of our ancestors…then what? My friend, for example, was good at making these arguments once he had a drink or three in him but I knew that he suffered from depression in his daily life. He also had other emotional problems, the most obvious being a sense of rejection from a mostly absent father. So if I were to accept this goddess, then what? Do I get any of the benefits that the Jewish Christ offers me? Not only comfort, but a removal of that crippling sense of not-belonging that all humans feel. We feel like we don’t fit it, like we are lesser than so-and-so, like we are failures and that we are defeated. Circumstances make us feel powerless and our own inability to be perfect makes us feel guilty for not achieving great goals – we are constantly missing the mark/target. The original Greek word used for sin in the bible is literally translated to mean ‘missing the mark’. We, as humans, always feel like there is something just not right with us or our world. So we have gods, we worship, we pray for blessings that everything might go right and, if it doesn’t, we think that we have not ‘sacrificed’ enough and need to do more to gain the favour of whatever ‘god’ we happen to worship culturally or by choice.

The well-known British worship singer, Matt Redman, sang a song that came to mind while I was thinking about Christ. The lyrics are:

You’re blood speaks a better word/than all the empty claims

I’ve heard upon this earth/speaks righteousness for me

and stands in my defence/Jesus it’s Your blood.

There’s no god or goddess, ancient or modern, who offers a sense of ‘belonging’ and therefore freedom from that feeling of being an outsider, of being unaccepted, unloveable, a failure and rejected by God. Although other religions and worship practices may also demand a blood sacrifice, it is usually to fix a bad situation or to invoke a temporary blessing. The Blood of Jesus speaks to the heart of man and removes the sense of guilt and shame from all who believe. It shows us that, in order to remove that feeling of rejection brought on by sin – missing the mark and our true, God-given purpose in life – we can have our hearts cleansed and nolonger be weighed down by the heavy sinking feeling of being up against threats and oppositions that are much greater than us. To receive Him is to allow Him, and the truth of His blood, to deal with our heart issues. Hence the question, ‘and then what?’ We can choose to believe in our ancestor’s gods because it makes cultural sense and speaks to our logic, but our human hearts still suffer unseen and deep hurts that can only be addressed by the promises in the blood of Christ.

No doctrine or god/goddess offers that hope and promise of a new heart – leaving your old self behind with its flaws and weaknesses and receiving the divine personality of God to strengthen, guide and commune with you.

He appeals to our heart-needs whereas my friend’s choice of god appeals to head-needs: tribal, racial, ancestral etc. And once I accept a black goddess and reject the Jewish Christ, then what? I remain unchanged in the place that matters most, in my heart. My friend can make great intellectual arguments but the core of him remains the same, depressed and isolated.

 

 

***

“What does love look like?” Is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”

I once believed that love was romance, just a chance
I even thought that love was for the lucky and the beautiful
I once believed that love was a momentary bliss
But love is more than this
All You ever wanted was my attention
All You ever wanted was love from me
All You ever wanted was my affections, to sit here at Your feet
Then tell me

“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”

Then I sat down, a little frustrated and confused
If all of life comes down to love
Then love has to be more than sentiment
More than selfishness and selfish gain

And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
He was looking at me, looking at Him, staring through me
I could not escape those beautiful eyes
And I began to weep and weep

He had arms wide open, a heart exposed
Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding

Love’s definition, love’s definition was looking at me
Looking at Him, hanging on a tree
I began to weep and weep and weep and weep

This is how I know what love is, this is how I know what love is

And as I sat there weeping, crying
Those beautiful eyes, full of desire and love
He said to me:

“You shall love Me, You shall love Me
You shall love Me, You shall love Me”

With arms wide open, a heart exposed
With arms wide open, bleeding, sometimes bleeding

If anybody’s looking for love in all the wrong places
If you’ve been searching for love, come to Me, come to Me
Take up your cross, deny yourself
Forget your father’s house and run, run with Me
You were made for abandonment, wholeheartedness
You were made for someone greater, someone bigger, so follow Me
And You’ll come alive when you learn to die

This is February, the month of love, and as we reflect on what true love means to us, let us see only Jesus, hanging on a tree, looking at us, healing our hearts and all our hurts, loving us eternally and residing with us forever.

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