A criticism I have heard about the current happenings at Asbury University is that it may simply be emotionalism. Is that fair?
When a couple “falls in love”, we often hear people say things like, “Isn’t that precious” or “Aren’t they sweet together“. In the early stages of a relationship, we seldom consider that the relationship may not be cerebral enough. We also know from our own experience that there will be times when the couple offends each other, purely by accident, as they do not yet know all the expectations of the other.
An important part of courtship is getting to know one another. Most relationships do not begin with a completed dossier. Real and deep love that transcends emotion comes with time as we commit to someone because of, and despite the other person’s opinions, personality, and behaviors.
Some teach that a genuine relationship with God is not about how we feel, but how we conform to God’s commands. There is much truth in this, but it is not complete. Conversely, some teach that how we feel is important to God. This is also true. Jesus was beaten so we could have peace. (Isaiah 53:5). But to engage fully with God, we need the one without discarding the other. In both the first and second covenants of the Bible, we are commanded to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all our soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30).
If we love God with all our hearts, we are going to “feel” it. If we love Him with all our souls, we are going to want to “know” Him better. And, if we love Him with all our strength, we are going to “act” on what we know are His desires in a spirit of love.
But wait, here’s another shocker. Our relationship with God does not simply evolve from emotional love through cognitive understanding to religious activism. Instead, like any good long-lasting marriage, one feeds the other. We love Him, so we want to know Him more. As we know Him more we want to serve and obey Him to show how much we love Him. Feeling and knowing his joyful and loving acceptance of the gifts we give Him, through obedience, time, and service, causes us to love him more and consequently, we desire to know and do more. We fall in love over and over again as we learn and serve. Like David, we seek after His heart, and we become people “after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14).
God cares deeply about how we feel, but our feelings are not the most important thing on His mind. Like a child, we sometimes desire things He does not want us to have. Because He loves us He forbids or keeps things from us. He knows much more than we do about where the path we seek will lead. Too often that path is away from Him.
In the letter to the Ephesians (Revelation 2:1-7), Jesus celebrated the church for what they knew of God’s Word and the actions they took to keep the church doctrinally pure. Despite this, He said he had something against them; they had abandoned their first love. He admonished them to “Repent and perform the deeds they did at first.” He warned them that despite their theological correctness, they would lose their place in His kingdom if they didn’t return to that first love.
I get it. I’ve seen far too many people who love the idea of love more than they are committed to a lifetime of love. It’s easy to wonder where the initial emotional stage is going to lead. Too many are standing back judging the movement instead of praying for the individuals who make up the movement. For some, it is jealousy that God may pour Himself out on someone else and not on them.
Is God at work at Asbury? Absolutely! He is ALWAYS at work. Will some of these people look back on this time as a catalyst for their life? I’d bet on it. Are some going to walk away unchanged? Yep!
Many criticized Jesus’ earthly ministry. Some thought it would merely fade away. For Judas, it did, but for the other disciples, it set the courses of their lives. Other’s thought it was the beginning of a new kingdom. It was, but not yet, and not in the way they expected.
Instead of cheering or booing from the stands we should take this opportunity to examine our own lives and relationships. Do we love God with our whole being? Are we taking every opportunity to get to know Him better? Are we acting like we love and know Him? This is not an opportunity to judge others, it is an opportunity to judge ourselves and to pray He pours out His Spirit on all of us.