Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
In the 1980’s Johnny Lee made Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places a country hit. The chorus goes.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places,
Looking for love in too many faces.
Searching their eyes, looking for traces of one I'm dreaming of,
Hoping to find a friend and a lover.
I'll bless the day I discover another heart, looking for love.
In our world it’s pretty easy to go through life with this outlook. And if we haven’t been a victim of this we can all probably point to a friend, neighbor, or relative who fits this mold. Yet I’d like to suggest that the reason so much of the world is looking in the “wrong places” is that they aren’t even really certain what they’re looking for.
Years ago a young girl in a youth group I was working with discovered the truth about how much God loved her. Then with a total openness she asked, “If Jesus loved us so much why did he die?” She understood that God loved her. But she couldn’t connect with the quality of love; the type of love; the depth of that love. For so many both inside and outside of the church love remains a “warm fuzzy”; an “emotional high”; or something that is “safe, nice and comfortable”. And when we define love in that way we fall into one of the oldest mistakes we can make. For you see the only thing that this view of Love has with God’s view of Love is that it sounds the same.
Want to be loved? Want to learn to love? Want to fall in love again? Then it will take a change in our Attitude of servant hood, our Approach to the issue of ownership, and our Absorption into the love of God.
Attitude of servant hood
The question asked by the world is, “What’s in it for me?” This is why the love in pornography is so horrible and degrading. It puts others in the position of being servants and slaves to our desires. Consider Jesus’ words to his disciple, “I came to serve” and when you look at our first scripture this morning it’s Jesus who takes on the form of the servant.
Can you imagine anything more contradictory to our world’s view of love? In fact, if you take a long hard look at those passages we don’t like to read in our politically correct male/female society, the ones that deal with husbands and wives mutual submission, the issue is one of servant hood—mutual servant hood.
Just before the Last Supper Jesus lived out this lesson as he washed his disciples feet. “If I, your master, washed your feet then you should wash one another’s feet.” Being the servant is the first step in learning to love.
Approach to the issue of ownership
I’m sure you’ve heard of these rules for 2-year olds:
1: If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my mouth, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I'm chewing something up, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it just looks like mine, it's mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours when it’s fixed it’s mine again.
It’s not only two-year olds that play at love with rules like these. How many people feel they own something. Alison Willcock wrote those memorable lines us 60’s kids remember, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was. We do not possess anything in this world, least of all other people. We only imagine that we do. Our friends, our lovers, our spouses, even our children are not ours; they belong only to themselves. Possessive and controlling friendships and relationships can be as harmful as neglect.” Today’s is shorter and scarier. “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't stalk it till they serve a restraining order…”
The world’s view of love makes it something to own, control and rule. Yet once again Paul tells us just how foreign that is to Jesus’ embodiment of Love. Jesus didn’t hold on to the rights, privileges and power of being God. Instead he let it go, he “emptied” himself of all those rights in order to love us.
Can you start to imagine what this is like? Imagine everything in your life that gives you identity, prestige, a sense of power, a reason to get up in the morning, and pouring it out on the ground so that you can become so much less. Jesus didn’t just love us perfectly; he was and is perfected love itself. Love that doesn’t have to own, control and manage but that can let go and rest and laugh.
Absorption into the love of God
The world as we might guess from our personal experience, and the way love’s depicted in music and movies is pretty self-absorbed. But the world doesn’t mind if the church teaches, “God is Love”. That’s cool because it means that God’s going to understand the way things work in the “real world”, doesn’t it?
Doesn’t it seem fair that God would cut us some slack after all the world’s so different than when Jesus lived. No the world’s not really different. This misunderstanding of what we’ve all been looking for has stayed the same since David saw Bethsheeba bathing on her rooftop.
John doesn’t want us to miss the lesson we learn eavesdropping on Nicodemus and Jesus that night. There must be (it’s an imperative) a new birth. The choice that Jesus sets before Nicodemus and us is to either face this choice with aversion, fear and horror at the narrow mindedness of Jesus in this day of so many equally wonderful choices. Or to be embraced by God’s love and surrender to Him so that we are absorbed in the beauty life changing and life giving eternal life Jesus offers. And before you say, “Oh well, I’ve got lot’s of time to decide” let me remind you that our response has eternal consequences. It’s a decision that moves us from judgment to blessing, from lostness to salvation, from death into life—and I wish I could say I’m being melodramatic but I’m not. It’s simply the most important choice anyone will ever make.
Twins were born into a rough household. Physical violence was the rule. Errors in life, tone of voice or just speaking at the wrong time could be met with an indiscriminate backhand or abusive cursing. They ended up going to church just to get away from the two abusive excuses for parents. Maybe it wasn’t the best reason but at least they went. When they were able to get jobs and escape home they stopped going to church and got busy with life.
A few years later we find them again. The first is like his parents. He’s abusive toward himself and others. Most of his relationships have ended up in fights with blame being tossed at each other like baseballs. Kind words were unheard of unless it was in front of the cops who showed up at the weekly brawls. Broken marriages, a kid here and there dot the landscape of this one as he moves through looking for the love he needed and never got.
He faced life with the hard-jawed cynical attitude of one who had been hurt once too many times. Church was a fraud, God was a joke and those who believed that “stuff” were weak and losers. No job was good enough for him. No boss was decent. And Politicians, well you couldn’t trust one as far as you could throw one.
The second child too had scars. Anger, resentment, bitterness and hurt were burned deep in his mind, heart and soul. It had messed up some relationships and yet even in the midst of the worse of their pain he took comfort in believing that there was a loving God who cared about him. You see a few years back he returned to church.
Life had run out for him too and there was nowhere else to turn. The pain between family, spouse, child and step children; the inner pressure and the struggle against escapism had brought him to a place where he finally remembered the one who offered to let him rest in his arms of love. Is life perfect? No. But where there was only despair there is now a sense of hope.
Need to stop looking for love in the places where the world says you’ll find it? Need to stop looking for the type of love the world defines as “real love”? Then let me suggest that you come to this table and discover Jesus’ love for you broken and poured out.
It is here among the bread and cup that we see and smell, taste and remember just what it meant for Jesus to empty himself and become one of us. “He became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” Today, if you need to be absorbed by God’s love once more, if you need to change the approach you have toward others, or if your attitude toward what it means to be a servant needs to be changed then as you eat and drink simply ask Jesus to make those changes. Let your taking these elements be a physical sign of the new reality in your life that begins today.