“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
“In Spite of…”
Pastor John Hagee, of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, described the 3 kinds of love in his recent December 18th, 2022, sermon, “God’s Greatest Gift”:
• Love defined by “If…”:
“I’ll love you if you share your wealth with me”;
“I’ll love you if you are successful”; or
“I’ll love you if you never make me feel sad (or angry or hurt).”
• Love defined by “Because…”:
“I love you because of your position (or wealth or fame)”;
“I love you because of your good looks”; or
“I love you because you never argue with me”.
• Love defined by “In spite of…”:
“I love you in spite of your shortcomings or faults”;
“I love you in spite of your background”; or
“I love you in spite of the words you have spoken”.
As an example, we love our country – the United States of America – in spite of its struggles or political discord. Our country was founded on biblical principles by men who cared more about the future than their present. Though not perfect, our country values the rights of individual citizens with a fervency unlike other countries.
Patriots defend our nation in spite of decisions made in Washington, DC. The military serve and protect in spite of personal convictions. First responders put their lives on the line every day in spite of misunderstanding and mistreatment from some people.
Christ-followers in early Rome loved, served, and shared the gospel in spite of the threat of crucifixion or some other kind of torturous death. Missionaries advance the kingdom of God in spite of rejection, persecution, or even death.
Conditional love is temporary and insufficient. When conditions or contingencies are “part of the deal”, we never know when the love will be removed. Often, we accept conditional love because our longing for unconditional love, such as that which Christ offers, is so great! When we come, just as we are, to our Savior and Lord, He assures us that He loves us in spite of our shortcomings, sins, or self-centeredness.
The most popular scripture in the Bible explains what God did because His love for us is so great:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-16, NIV)
Current “trending now” infatuation can often be the “if…” or “because…” sort of love. Celebrities are loved by adoring fans until they step out of favor due to their tweets or behavior. The popularity of those who are in the limelight undulates because of conditional love.
Our culture is fickle, with a short-term memory. Some presidents are hailed as heroes, while others are remembered as less-than-great. Even Christopher Columbus, and the celebration of Columbus Day, have become controversial. No longer regarded as one of the revered discoverers of America, many of his statues are being removed and history books are being rewritten to depict him as a man who destroyed and enslaved Indigenous people.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, a well-known author, has stated: “One of the basic needs of every human being is the need to be loved, to have our wishes and feelings taken seriously, to be validated as people who matter.”
This need to be loved is innate and constant – not fleeting or conditional. We all have flaws. Our need is to be loved in spite of our limitations, failures, and sins.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Love is an important topic to discuss with teens. They are often involved in serious relationships and perhaps struggle to understand the need for unconditional love. These discussion starters can initiate meaningful conversations.
• Ask, “Do you know of a celebrity who was adored – but then ‘fell from grace’? What caused this change in popularity?”
• Share: “Movies and TV shows often portray relationships that seem to be easy and without conflict. Do you think that’s realistic? Explain why or why not.”
• Share: “Love is a commitment. What do you think unconditional love means?”
• Share: “Love should be defined as being ‘in spite of…’, rather than ‘if…’ or ‘because…’ Can you remember any movies or TV shows that portray this genuine kind of love, or have you experienced any examples of this in your own life?”
• Share: “The culture is depicted through the mass media, but values and ideas change – often quickly. Would you say that love should be conditional or unconditional? Which kind of love would you say is most often portrayed by the media?”
• Share: “Let’s talk about God’s love. Beyond Jesus’ unconditional love for us, what are some other examples from the Bible of God’s unconditional love?”
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #AChangingCulture, #CriticalThinkingAndTeens, #IAmNotDefinedByTheCulture, #3KindsOfLove, #InSpiteOf, #FleetingPopularity, #UnconditionalLove
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