I am in God's remedial reading class. I was in pretty bad shape. For example, take Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God, all things work for good. . . ." As a younger Christian who wasn't sure I "loved" God, I inquired of a seminarian and was assured that I needn't concern myself overmuch; the verse just means a person who has been saved.
That's all the permission I needed. I was off and running with creative interpretations of plain language left and right. "But I know that you do not have the love of God in you" (John 5:42), Jesus said. Not a big concern to my lukewarmness. Only in the commonplace world would that be troublesome, as in the sentence, "But I know that you do not have the love of Melissa in you." Or "of your husband." Or "of football."
Want relief from the discomfort of 1 Peter 1:8? "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory." Feeling a gap between your experience and that of the first century Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia? I have several hermeneutical options for you:
- God gave the early Church all kinds of emotional experiences and miracles in order to launch the Church that he does not give us today, except perhaps on the mission frontiers such as Africa.
- This particular group of afflicted believers was undergoing extraordinary suffering, and so God gave them extraordinary grace.
- One may experience occasional periods of extreme religious emotion, but such emotions are not sustainable.
- It is immature to expect or insist on emotional highs; let us strive for a more grown-up faith in our day.
- "Joy inexpressible" is the goal to which we press on, and which we will know in the "not yet" consummation of all things.
- You actually do have "joy inexpressible" in your heart; you just don't know it.
I think I would have been better off if someone had told me: "Andrée, you don't feel much love for God? You don't feel much joy? Let me pray for you. Because the love of God is a wonderful blessing that he wants you to have, and to plead for if you don't. King David had it. Jesus had it. Don't settle for anything less."
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.