Have you ever heard the expression, "If you love me, you'll ..."? It has become common for people to use this expression to manipulate another into doing something they might otherwise not be disposed to do. It is often the last resort after all else has failed. Kids can be adept at this type of appeal to emotion - emotional blackmail, particularly when a matter of discipline arises, or when an appeal for a particular response is not forthcoming.
It is interesting to see how this approach has impinged upon our understanding of God. Because we hold such a high value on love, we consider it to be the greatest appeal. And since our view of love is skewed towards the romantic, we quickly turn God into an all-powerful Santa Claus whose only reason for existence is to shower us with blessing. Of course this rules out the concept of discipline, or of deprivation to teach us the value of things.
On a theological level, this view is often behind thoughts predicated with the expression "if God is a God of love", which usually continues on with a question about why He hasn't acted to alleviate suffering/poverty, or why he would allow a "horrible thing" to happen, or how he could allow eternal punishment. It is an argument which carries as much logic or value as a child saying "If you love me you'll buy me an ice cream." Simply we are asking God to act according to our patterns of thinking, to our understanding of what is important.
Life is extremely complex. Suffering, poverty, disease and other problems have complex origins, many of them directly the result of actions within the control of human beings. Yet rather than deal with the ways in which we can reduce the impact of these struggles, we ponder why God does not wave a magic wand over them. How loving is it to help another avoid their legitimate responsibilities?
In response to the most serious problem facing human beings of all walks and ages of life, God sent His own Son to live, teach and die to express His love, and open up His greatest gift of all: eternal life (both in quantity and quality). Doesn't that demonstrate His love enough?
December 3, 2000
feedback to the author