As the death toll continues to rise in Maui with at least a thousand people unaccounted for, some of the survivors’ stories are beyond horrific. Meanwhile, officials are warning that airborne pollutants created by the wildfires remain in areas devastated by the conflagration and are dangerous to humans. Toxic particles from burning homes, pipes, propane tanks, and cars can contaminate the water system and can affect the lungs, eyes, and skin.
In other words, what you cannot see can be as dangerous as what you can.
For example, unless you live in Montgomery County, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC), you may not know about a lawsuit being brought by parents seeking to shield their children from sexual LGBTQ materials. Parents from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish backgrounds have rallied together and are accusing the school district of denying them the right to determine the religious education of their children.
Books at the center of the dispute are for Pre-K and elementary-school levels. Two of the objectionable books are Pride Puppy, a “queer-centric alphabet book,” and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, in which a girl’s uncle marries his boyfriend. Both illustrate the ongoing quest to normalize LGBTQ behavior starting with our youngest children. The superintendent and school board chose not to notify parents or allow them to opt their children out of these and other LGBTQ materials in class.
Then there’s Austin, Texas, where the school district encouraged staff, students, and their families to attend the annual Austin Pride Parade last Saturday. The district provided free shuttles to the event and recommended that students and their families wear “pride costumes and rainbow colors.”
Culture wars know no bounds
Does the incessant drumbeat of cultural opposition to biblical morality discourage you? It does me. Since I don’t live in Maryland or Austin, I’m tempted to ignore these stories. But that would be like ignoring the ongoing tragedy in Lahaina just because I don’t live on Maui.
Not to mention the fact that the culture wars know no geographical boundaries. For example, activists want to normalize and legalize LGBTQ behavior across the country while stigmatizing and criminalizing opposition wherever it exists. This is why Christians need a way to resist our secularized, anti-Christian culture while impacting our nation with God’s redeeming love and unchanging truth.
The key to both is found in a commitment that is transformative for our souls and empowering for our witness.
On Monday we explored the contrast between a religion about God and a relationship with him, noting that the latter is God’s intention for each of us. We are each called to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), a foundational commandment Jesus considered essential to all the rest.
Today, let’s take a step further: there is a difference between loving God and being in love with him.
“I seek not a long life, but a full one”
Those who commit adultery or view pornography may say they love their spouse, but they cannot be in love with them while doing so. I may love my friend, but I cannot be in love with him while deceiving him.
This is one way Christianity is different from all other world religions: we can have a personal, intimate relationship with our Lord as if he were a living person, because he is. What’s more, his Spirit lives in us to guide and empower us in this relationship.
It is as if your spouse were living inside your body and helping you to love them today.
Such passionate, personal intimacy with Jesus explains Paul’s sacrificial zeal to know Christ and make him known at all costs (Philippians 3:10). It explains John’s worship on Patmos sixty years after his best friend returned to heaven (Revelation 1:10). It explains martyred missionary Jim Elliot’s prayer, “Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” And his famous testimony: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Such passion for Jesus empowers us to stand boldly yet compassionately for his word and will. It transforms us in ways that attract our lost culture to our Lord. It is the key to living victoriously in this dark season in human history.
“What an immeasurably profound love!”
How can you and I be more in love with Jesus today than ever before?
First, ask the Holy Spirit to manifest love for Christ in your heart. Since love is a “fruit” of the Spirit, it is most powerfully produced by him (Galatians 5:22).
Second, do what love does. Love is a commitment before it is an emotion. Nowhere does the Bible describe how it feels to be in love with Jesus, but all through the New Testament we are told what we will do when we love him passionately: we will obey his word (John 14:15), pray with thanksgiving daily (1 Thessalonians 5:17–19), love others (1 John 4:7), and serve them sacrificially (John 15:13).
Third, remember Jesus’ sacrificial love for you. St. Catherine of Siena (1347–80) prayed: “Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature.
“What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?”
What about yours today?