A passionate love affair with God. This is what Rob Reimer writes our Christian faith should look like. He says, “That’s what Christianity is all about – it is about a passionate love affair with the God who died for us because he couldn’t stand to be away from us.”
This phrase gave me significant pause. I didn’t really like it. I understood the degree of passion and intimacy that he was trying to convey, but the inclusion of affair really bothered me. The connotations of an affair are overwhelmingly negative in our vernacular. But as I began to reflect on it and read through the picture he was trying to paint throughout the chapter, I realized that affair was really quite an apt term for the degree to which we were to abandon other things in pursuit of God.
We all have relationships with this world an in this world that drive us and are core to our identity. We have ambitions. We have people we care about and are responsible for. We have interests and pursuits of various kinds. Careers, families, hobbies, friends, churches, clubs, ideologies, politics – these are the relationships we have that drive us, that carry us, that define us.
But what this passionate love affair with God is suggesting we do, is abandon these commitments in pursuit of God. That is very strong language. And it paints a picture that many of us would be unwilling to follow. We would be unwilling, not because we don’t love God or because we don’t want to be close to him – but unwilling because we don’t want to abandon those other things – usually with good reason.
I have a family I love so deeply. I have responsibilities to that family.
I have a church that I love deeply. I have responsibilities to it.
I have a prison ministry I care about.
I have ambitions for developing myself and my gifts.
I have friends I care about. Different organizations I am a part of.
I am divided by many things in life. Good things worthy of my time and energy. So I add to that list my faith and longing for God, and I divide myself accordingly as I’m able.
But I find I’m not enough.
I’m not enough to pastor my church, pastor the inmates at the prison, be involved in the community, counsel people in crisis, be an encouragement to my friends and a positive influence on leaders in Grande Cache – all while showing my wife the undying love she deserves and my kids the present and loving father they deserve, then find the energy still to reach out to God in prayer and develop my relationship with him.
But the pursuit of God offers a different path forward. When God truly becomes the center, we will find ourselves more capable of wading through the responsibilities of life. When God becomes the focus of our energy, he becomes the source of new energy, and we have all that we need to do the things in life that he has called us to do.
As I learn about my heavenly Father and grow closer to him, I become a better father to my children. As I learn about his sacrificial love for me, I learn sacrificial love for my wife. As He leads me, I am better equipped to lead. As I see him move throughout communities to reach and save the lost, I develop a spiritual vision for reaching and saving the lost. “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well.”
In John 15:4-8, Jesus gives a metaphor for the source of fruit in our lives.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
If we find ourselves in passionate pursuit of intimacy with God, we will be grafted on, and the fruit of our lives will grow.
Maybe you once had a passion for God, but its faded over time. As Reimer says, “What began with passion ends with duty.” Perhaps there was a time you loved to read through the Scriptures and just soak up everything you could – now you read them out of obligation because that’s what Christians do. Perhaps you once rejoiced in eager anticipation with each Sunday gathering to worship God with others and be part of his kingdom, and now you come to church because that’s what Christians do.
A great way to tell if the fire is there or not is your perspective on ministries when you engage. Are you looking for God or looking for problems? Are you concerned with what you like, or what God is doing? Do you long to worship God through your favourite songs alone, or are you joyous just to worship regardless of style?
Think of relationships you have in life. When things are going really well, the diversity with which you engage that person grows. How many guys have sat through a romantic comedy that was just the worst simply because it meant time with a woman they love? And then your relationship continues on, and you kind get used to having the other person around, and you hit that phase of – ok, you do your thing, I’ll do mine. The passion and desire dies down. It isn’t that things are bad, or that you’ve stopped caring for each other. But both want to have that fire again. In those situations, it isn’t the big romantic gestures that rekindle those fires. It’s the willingness to be with each other even when things are not ideal for you.
Big romantic gestures are easy, short, and fleeting. Lifestyle changes are hard, long term, and foundational.
So if you want to rekindle your love affair with God, you aren’t going to do so with a weekend retreat. Though a weekend retreat may help. You aren’t going to do so with a massive sacrificial offering donation. Though a massive sacrificial offering donation may help *cough cough*. It’s about lifestyle changes and habits.
So how do we do this? How do we pursue God?
We love one another.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
The first thing we need to do is learn about the love of God that we can better reflect it to the world around us. The Bible doesn’t call us just to be recipients of God’s love in this world, but vessels of it that carry that love to the world around us.
- Pray for God. Pray to know Him more. Pray to have His love revealed to you. God does not ask his people to sacrifice and change their lives for an unknown deity. He wants to reveal himself to us. And when we see him for who he is, that fire will burn within us to grow even deeper in love with him. As John wrote in 1 John, we love because he first loved us.
- Indwell your mind with God as you love others.
- Remind yourself of Him during the highs and lows of your day, as well as the times of monotony. When you are peeling potatoes, are you aware of God?
- Prune your life as your love for others refocuses your priorities.
- Social media is not a sin, but if it is keeping you from quiet time with God, it is a sin.
- Rob Reimer tells a story of visiting a vineyard and talking with a man who had been pruning vines for 50 years. He said that 90% of new growth had to be cut off, so that what remained could produce fruit. What in your life is tapping your resources and holding you back?
- Sacrifice as you love others.
- Invest in your relationship with God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Make sacrifices until they no longer seem like sacrifices. Then give more as God pours into your life.
The pursuit of God requires a lot of little choices. Day to day.
“If you pursue God, you will ultimately be rewarded with more of Him.” – Rob Reimer
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.