• Steven Marsh

Love–God’s Active Love: a Reflection on Psalm 145:1-8, Philippians 1:21-30, and Matthew

Enthusiasm for life, God, and others generates exponential impact and growth. In this regard, did you know that your ability to praise God, simply for who God is, matters? Ponder this:

You take approximately 23,000 breaths every day, but when was the last time you thanked God for one of them? The process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is a complicated respiratory task that requires physiological precision. We tend to thank God for the things that take our breath away. And that’s fine. But maybe we should thank him for every other breath too![1]

Living with an attitude of gratitude. That requires generosity. Generosity is an outgrowth from being loved and loving. And that, my friends, necessitates praising God. Praising God for who God is not for what God does or doesn’t do matters. Mark Douglas, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the MATS Program at Columbia Theological Seminary, writes, “To judge from Psalm 145:1-8, giving praise is almost the most natural thing human beings can do…This is an insistent psalm, a kind of daily reminder to do something that we would almost do otherwise.”[2] What is it about someone that deems them praiseworthy? The innate dignity of being created in the image of God, the imago Dei.

Praising God is not optional or conditioned by what God does or doesn’t do. The psalmist presumes that we have enough history with God to know that God by simply being God is all the warrant necessary for our praise. Even when we can name no thing about God that is praiseworthy, we are to praise God. Philippians 1:21-30 and Matthew 20:1-16 confirm the point made in Psalm 145: praising God is not optional or conditioned by what God does or doesn’t do. First, our praise of God is not determined by whether or not we feel we have benefitted from God. The bottom line is that we belong to God and the chief end of being human is to glorify God and enjoy God forever. We are to live our lives in a way that is worthy of the gospel. Second, nothing we have done determines whether or not God wants to hear from us. God’s love for us is. It is what it is based on who God is not who we are. Recall the workers in the vineyard. All received the same wage regardless of what time they started to work. Third, whether or not we can access a sense of gratitude to motivate our praise of God, we must pause and recognize we are breathing. Having the breath of life is enough to warrant our praise of God. Let’s move beyond our natural tendency to be self-centered.[3]

What does giving praise to God regardless of what God has or hasn’t done for you, mean for you today? Giving praise to God is an act of generosity. Live your life with an attitude of gratitude. Be generous. And such a perspective on living is rooted in our acknowledgment of God through our words and actions of praise. We are to be generous, living with an attitude of gratitude. We are to love God and others. We are not to pass judgment on other. And we are to give praise to God. Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins writes,

Trust God, accept Jesus, confess, repent, and everything will go well for you. But if you don’t, well, the Bible is quite clear…Sin, refuse to repent, harden your heart, reject Jesus, and when you die, it’s over. Or actually, the torture and anguish and eternal torment will have just begun. That’s how it is—because That’s what God is like, correct?[4]

The message of Jesus is this: our actions and yes, even offering or not offering praise to God does not determine whether heaven or hell is our final destination. Offering or not offering praise to God focuses or doesn’t focus our thoughts and actions on remembering, telling, and living the way of Jesus.

Just perhaps, the way we praise God, regardless of our feelings or ability to assemble God’s greatest acts toward us, will cause the shaping of our future lives, and be a resource for how we can understand and live out our current lives according to God’s way. We are to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers…”

Love is the way God always captures us from our selfish and self-serving ways. Hmmm? Thus, all we can do, if we need to use a verb, is love. Love is experienced through our words and actions. Praise be to God.

[1]Mark Batterson, All In (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 119.

[2]Mark Douglas in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 80.

[3]I must acknowledge Mark Douglas for his impact on my thinking in this paragraph. More from Mark Douglas can be found in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, 80, 82, and 84.

[4]Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York, New York: HarperOne, 2011), 64.

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