Theology and Cooling Love

My former pastor, Carey Olson, in conclusion to a week focused on missions, preached a sermon titled, The Gospel of the Kingdom, from Matthew 24:1-14. In v.3 of this passage, the disciples asked,

…  what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age? (ESV).

Pastor Carey emphasized the promise Jesus gave in v.14 as the answer to this question.

Jesus said, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (ESV).

He did a wonderful job expounding on the fact that Jesus, the Christ, and his gospel – the good news that a just God has provided a way to save us from his holy wrath and bring us into everlasting fellowship with him – are worth suffering for because God is worthy to be worshipped.

Later, as I was rereading the passage and thinking about this sermon, my eyes focused on a related part of Jesus’ response to his disciples’ question,

And because lawlessness [sin] will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12, ESV). 

I wondered,

WHY would an increase in sin cause the love of many to grow cold?

Is the answer forgetfulness, hatefulness, and betrayal?

By pushing away any remembrance of the fact that God saved us even when we were sinning against him and reconciled us to himself even when we were his enemies [Rom. 5:8,10], it’s fairly obvious how love could grow cold for a world who hates you and for friends who betray you.

  • The world will hate Christians and deliver them up for suffering and death [v. 9].
  • People, who believers think are their Christian brothers and sisters, will betray them [v. 10].

Disbelief directed toward God is the ultimate answer.

While I do think forgetting to apply to those who hate and betray us what God has done for us partially explains a growing coldness in love toward others, I do not think forgetfulness, hatefulness, and betrayal are the ultimate root of the growing coldness in love Jesus spoke of. Nor do I think the haters and betrayers themselves are the primary objects of this cooling love.

Ultimately the growing coldness in love Jesus spoke of is rooted in disbelief and directed toward God. But WHY? I think this growing coldness of love, that happens during suffering, is because of our mistrust in God’s character and a misunderstanding of Christian suffering. In other words, we have a wrong theology of God and suffering.

During suffering, love toward God grows cold because we …

  • do not really believe that God is good and loves us.
  • do not really believe that suffering is actually working good for us.
  • do not really believe that our suffering has anything to do with the glory of God.

In other words, FAITH IN GOD and LOVE OF GOD (that spills out in love toward others) go together. So, when we suffer out of love for Christ, for the sake of Christ’s fame, and his good news, we must know and believe WHO God is and WHY we suffer so that our love for God and for others does not grow cold – so that we will endure to the end and be saved.

Related Blogs

Blameless but Suffering Still
In Exchange for You
Terrors of the Soul 

Related Scripture:

God is good:
Mark 10:18 “’Why do you call me good?’” Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone'” (ESV).

God loves his children:
Eph. 2:4 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (ESV).

Suffering works good for us:
Romans 8:28  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (ESV).

Suffering highlights the glory of Christ:
Romans 8:17-19 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (ESV).

Faith & Love go together:
1 Peter 1:8  “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” (ESV).
Gal. 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (ESV). 

Photo by by Endimion17 (Own work) accessed from wikimedia commons.

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