Over at the XXXChurch Confessions Blog, an anonymous man writes the following excellent question:
I have been hurt by church and don’t know how i feel about loving the God that has been presented by the christians i have met. I have struggled with lust for a long time and i have recently realized that i am using it as a form of escape. I have a girlfriend whom i am in love with and we are trying to keep our physical relationship under control but when we mess up I know i have hurt her and that kills me inside. I want to love her wholly, not just for her body and I want her to know that. I just keep beating myself up for it, because i know that this kind of behavior is not right. My problem is that I feel loved when I am touched (not in a sexual way) by someone that cares for me. How can I feel loved by God if he can’t touch me? (source)
Without knowing exactly what sort of God has been presented to him, I have to assume that he can’t reconcile a God of wrath with a God of love. The Bible says that God is love (1 Jn 4:8), however the entire Old Testament presents a God of wrath who is appeased by sacrifices.
Most likely, the Christians our guest poster was talking about were unable to articulate this fact. God’s wrath must be understood alongside his love, not in opposition to it.
The item really at issue, however, is that the writer equates love with touch. As sensual as the touch is, that is far from the only way to show love. Personally, I have fallen in love with three women solely by maintaining an Internet chat relationship with them–the last of which I married and couldn’t be happier that I did. I understand that I’m not the world, but I think a case can be made that love is more than just sensual touch.
I think a good case can be made for loving someone that does things for you that no one else can do. The second of these three women I fell in love with over the Internet held highly intelligent conversations with me, something that I definitely wasn’t getting anywhere else at that time. She remains the smartest woman (and perhaps the smartest person) I’ve ever met. So, without touching me, she captivated my heart in a way that no one had up until that point. I know that she felt the same for me, but I can’t speak as to what part of her I touched that created such lasting feelings in her.
That said, it is easy to make a case for loving God without having a love based in the sense of touch. God created the entire universe (Gen 1:1; Eph 3:9; Rev 4:11) and everything in it, seen and unseen (Col 1:16). God holds all these things together (Col 1:17). God is impartial (Acts 10:34-35) and is the source of all good gifts (Jms 1:17). This means that he also gives gifts at his discretion to even the wicked (Job 21:7-16; Jer 12:1-2) whose sin he cannot tolerate (Prv 20:23; Ps 5:4, 11:5, 37:38; Hab 1:13).
God has done all of these things, and his promise is trustworthy (Heb 13:5).
God may not reach out and touch a person, but it is easy to see all of the things that he has done for us simply by considering the blessings we have in this life. The anonymous poster should remember those gifts, and pay homage to the one who gave those gifts instead of delighting in the gifts themselves.
- Eight Things That Love is Not (socyberty.com)
Whenever a Christian converses with a non-Christian about the truth of the faith, every request of the non-Christian for the proof of Christianity should be met with an equally serious request for proof for the non-Christian’s philosophy of life. Otherwise we get the false impression that the Christian worldview is tentative and uncertain, while the more secular worldviews are secure and sure, standing above the need to give a philosophical and historical accounting of themselves. But that is not the case. Many people who demand that Christians produce proof of our claims do not make the same demand upon themselves….If the Christian must produce proof, so must others. (Desiring God [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996], pp. 273-274)
H/T to Jason Engwer of Triablogue.