Love isn’t all you need

It’s been just over 50 years since the Beatles released their hit song, “All You Need is Love.” Countless movies, shows, and songs share the same theme: there’s someone out there who’s “just right” for you. All you need to do is find that person, fall head-over-heels in love, and you’ll live happily ever after.

Writers and filmmakers understand the power that this idea has over us. We’ve all bought into the idea that there is someone out there who’s just right for me, and if I have him or her, my problems will be over, and I’ll have everything.

The movies work because we’ve bought into the myth.

This theme also runs through Genesis 29. Jacob was on the run from his brother in a foreign land. God’s whole plan to redeem the world through his chosen people seemed to be in jeopardy. Jacob throws himself on the mercy of his Uncle Laban, who has no way of paying him. But, Laban does have two daughters. The younger one, Rachel, is beautiful. The older one, Leah, no one wants.

Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years if Rachel can be his wife. It was an outrageous price for a bride. But Jacob was so infatuated with Rachel that he would have done anything to get what he wanted.

Underneath Jacob’s infatuation is the brokenness of all his relationships. His father didn’t love him; his brother looked down on him; and his mother had helped him deceive his father. Now he had no one. So, when he saw Rachel, the “woman of his dreams,” he figured all his problems were solved.

But beneath all this brokenness was a broken relationship with God.

There was no Hollywood ending to this story, but God was at work, and God redeemed the mess Jacob had made of his life.

If you are feeling unloved, remember. Jesus saw the beauty in you. Jesus chose you. He said, if I have her, if I have him, I’ll have everything.

When helping hurts

I’m leading a study of the book When Helping Hurts. It’s a powerful read. It challenges us to reconsider the effectiveness of just giving money and things to the poor, or just telling them to “get a job.”

Authors Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett say the problem started with the fall. At the fall, our relationship with God was damaged, but so was our relationship with the rest of creation, with others, and with ourselves—our self-image. They say that helping the poor is ultimately about restoring relationships between God, creation, others, and ourselves. Everyone has gifts they were meant to use to bless others and help themselves.

Fikkert and Corbett tell of a church which operated a monthly food pantry. Guests were required to listen to a devotional, led by someone they didn’t know, before they could get their food. But then the church changed its approach. Instead of talking at their guests, they broke into small groups which were a mix of church members and guests. The small groups used an approach called “Appreciative Inquiry,” to discover the gifts and abilities of their guests. Instead of trying the “fix” their guests, they built relationships. Church members soon discovered their own poverty of spirit, and how much they needed the guests to help overcome it. Community started to grow. Members started picking up guests and bringing them to church, and began working with them on things like budgeting and finding jobs.

Best of all, they began enjoying one another as friends.

One lady said, “I no longer feel like I’m just a number in the crowd. Now I have a face.” Another asked, “Even if I don’t need groceries, can I still come?”

Guests starting regularly serving as volunteers and were delighted to do so. They said what set this food pantry apart was that they were treated with respect. They said it was as if the church actually enjoyed them.

Just sex?

A famous Hollywood producer is exposed for inappropriate behavior, leading to an avalanche of accusers coming forward.

A local police chief is caught soliciting an underage girl in a sting operation.

A high school teacher is jailed after violating the terms of her parole after being convicted for having a relationship with an underage student.

The wife of a prominent official falsely accuses her husband’s chief of staff of inappropriate advances, sending him to prison.

These stories sound like the news from the last few months. Every story is about sexual desire gone wrong. Every situation involves a person in a position of power using that position to attempt to satisfy an unhealthy desire. But the last one is actually the ancient story of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph from Genesis 39.

What’s going on?

The idea that a Bible story, thousands of years old, could be so relevant to what’s happening today ought to give us a clue. As great as it is that victims are now finding the courage to come forward, the real problem will take more than a momentary catharsis to overcome.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to try to address the deeper issues in our preaching. The answers don’t lend themselves to a blog entry, but I think the issue is something like this: We buy into the lie that “sex is just sex;” an appetite like any other to be satisfied. It’s not. Sex is actually a gift from God that leads a husband and wife into an intimate relationship, one that points to the relationship between human beings and God.

When we make sex an end in itself, it’s not a great leap to justify doing awful things to get what we want.