“By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness…And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness- the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven- a senile benevolence who, as they say, liked to see young people enjoying themselves’…”
-C.S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain
Whenever I encounter the topic of God’s love in daily conversation, it usually involves nothing more than the ‘senile benevolence’ reference in this quote. Like C.S. Lewis says, when talking about God’s love we usually just mean His kindness or desire to see us happy, but ‘senile benevolence’ is not really love – as much as some may want it to be.
Lewis goes on to say that God is not content with our personal happiness while we are deplorable creatures needing discipline, training, courage, maturity, or seeking after things that take us away from Himself. Scripture also says that God disciplines those He loves, and so we should not despise it. His discipline is perfect, and how we are matured into perfection. When I hear people talk about how God is leading them, teaching them, training them, correcting them and disciplining them…this when I hear a conversation about His love.
The reality is, in order to truly feel God’s love in a fallen world we must have more than just kindness and benevolence. We must have truth in the face of lies, the correction of error, and justice for wrongdoing. Without truth we have nothing but delusion. Without correction we have the enabling of wrongdoing, which is itself a wrongdoing. Without justice we have nothing more than a powerless form of pity. Yes, God’s love is inextricably tied to truth, correction, and justice. And while we are also to be benevolent, God also expects us to be the agents of His truth, correction, and justice on earth. This, more than ‘senile benevolence’ will bring about God’s will on earth.
If God truly loves us, He will often do things that, in a sense, feel like death. But they are death to the things that will ultimately destroy us even if they are pleasurable in the moment. Conviction and repentance of sin does not feel warm and fuzzy, but without it we will die in our sins and face eternal separation from God. In light of that, the humbling and not-so-fun process of conviction is the most loving thing God can do, and repentance, though painful, is far better than the alternative. If God loves us, He will put to death in us the things we are substituting for Him, and this often feels like death to us. Yet it is the most loving thing He can do.
Father, let us love and honor you not just for your benevolence but also for your correction and discipline, for we know that this is love. Help us to humbly submit to your conviction and correction even if it hurts in the moment. Help us receive it with gratitude and faith, knowing we are being refined and perfected – as you are. Thank you for seeking our highest good, even if we don’t. And help us to be agents of your love – with all its truth, correction, and justice, on earth as it is in Heaven. We love you, Abba. Amen.