I came across this quote from CS Lewis this morning from the Problem of Pain. He is talking about the idea of the love of God, and as usual he says very eloquently something important that I had a hunch about.
"By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness- the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven- a senile benevolence who, as they say, liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. . . . I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction." (Problem of Pain, pp.31-32)
When the average Christian talks to the average Postmodern/ Late-Modern person and says, "God loves you," that is a true statement. But many of our neighbors have a very different understanding of God and love. This difference is so huge that it may amount to meaning the exact opposite of what we (and the Bible) intend. For many of our neighbors, it sounds like this: "The most important thing is my freedom to do what I want and pursue my passions and desires. If anyone loves me (including God) then they would have to approve and support my attempt to enjoy life as I see it. If God loves me he will respect my rights and all that."
This is tricky because the Christian Gospel definitely says, "come as you are." And this can easily be misunderstood as an endorsement of what we are. For many people they cannot separate the idea of love and endorsement. The truth is much more difficult and much more liberating. God does love us as we are, which means he CANNOT leave us as we are. That would not be love at all. Our condition is so dark and desperate that in order to fix our mess he sent his son to be die as our substitute. The love of God also leads him to send his spirit to change our hearts and begin the process of renewal and restoration.
We need to talk about the love of God. And do it a lot. But we need to make sure we are not talking about a cheap imitation.