KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“You used to be in love with her, but now you’re just friends? Say what?” questioned the preacher.
With his eye on Valentine’s Day, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary assistant Christian theology professor Mark DeVine told a Feb. 3 chapel audience of the joy of falling in love again and again, making application to a Christian’s love of Christ.
“Love is tricky. It is different than just being pals with someone. Once love happens and then fades, there’s fallout. It may leave a bittersweet taste in our mouths after the breakup.”
No matter “the worthiness of the object of our love, the bitterness outweighs the sweetness,” he said.
Noting the church in Ephesus was once in love, DeVine referred to the account of Rev. 2:1-8 as evidence the Ephesian Christians were no longer in love. And nothing they could do — working and toiling for the Lord, testing the apostles to be sure they weren’t false, judging false teachers, enduring persecution, as good as those things were — could not make up for their lack of love.
The Christian life would be much simpler and more manageable were it not for an insistence on love, DeVine said. “That’s what’s wrong with our churches. They keep letting these people in and they’re are all messed up,” he jested, referring to the need to show love.
But when Christians fall out of love with Jesus, there is no need to despair, DeVine said. Following the rebuke of the church in Ephesus, he said there is a hope-filled message of repentance and recovering lost love, enabling a believer to fall in love again with Jesus.
DeVine spoke of the value of understanding the character of God’s love so “we will be better equipped to detect when it is waning.” Once this distinctive love is understood, DeVine said Christians will know better how to return it to God with a heart of gratitude.
Christians are called to a consuming love, DeVine said, like that to which the Ephesians were being called back. “Love for Jesus should seize the mind, body and heart and it does so because it sinks its grip into our desire. To know Jesus aright is to desire him.”
The love God deserves also requires knowledge of the object of such love, DeVine continued. “You can’t love who you don’t know.” And when Christians love the Lord as they ought, they will also fall in love with their brothers and sisters in Christ, he said.
He dismissed the notion that “what we need is a lot more love and less doctrine.” Recalling a popular Christian song that says, “I know all about the doctrine and theology, but those things don’t mean too much to me. I just want to love Jesus.” DeVine responded that doctrine serves love.
Because love requires knowledge and knowledge requires communication, DeVine said communication happens when “I say something to you and you say it back to me in your own words in a way that I agree that you have heard what I said.” He added such communication makes falling in love possible.
“To the extent that we share beliefs, our love grows deeper because those beliefs tell us that you know and love the same Jesus I know.”
DeVine also reminded of the essential outlet love provides for praise toward God. “When God is not praised, something is amiss in the order of things. It’s like we’re holding our spiritual breath. We produce doctrines because they are our feeble, revisable, but necessary love letter in return to his. We have to keep trying to show him we’ve heard what he said because we love him and he deserves it.”
He urged students, faculty and staff to “dig out the old love letters he sent to us and send one back to Jesus.” By doing that, DeVine said, “We can and should be falling in love with Jesus over and over again.”