Loving Freely: Rediscovering the Value of Faith

Days spent working from my office at home during the pandemic can be frustrating at times. The kids are home right now–learning remotely. Every now and then there’s a cry from the other end of the house: someone’s arguing or spilling or breaking something. My earplugs are already in but don’t quite drown out the noise. I think about turning up my playlist of instrumental Charles Wesley hymns, but being the responsible father that I am, I have to keep an open ear should someone really be in need.

Occassionally, to cheer my spirits, one of my little girls will slip a note under my office door with a word of encouragement. On one particularly frustrating day, my little Katarina dropped a note off that read: “I love you Dad. I love God too. I should love God more than you but I still love you so much.” A grin shown on my face from ear to ear. Kat was telling me how much she loved me, yet her effort to do so conveyed an inner conflict.

Among our kids, Kat’s our little theologian, asking some of the most profound questions. This time the question was implicit, expressing rare insight for a child her age: “Is it okay if I love you so much I feel sometimes I love you more than God?” The inner conflict she conveys suggests that she knows she is to love and prize God first in her life. This is one of, if not “the,” chief lesson we want our kids to grasp.

My new book, Embracing Our Roots: Rediscovering the Value of Faith, Family, and Tradition, pivots off of the very realization Katarina has made. Our personal journey of faith ought to be the foremost and foundational value in our lives, from which every other aspect of who we are flows out of. The love we have for family, or the church or denomination we belong to, ultimately finds a locus in the experience of God’s love through faith.

Is it wrong to feel such affection for someone, as Kat expressed for me, that we wonder whether we love God less than that person? No, it is not, as I would assure her. Why? Because we are humans. We have feelings. And feelings by definition are fragile and transient–they reflect our humanity and condition as creatures torn between two worlds (Phil. 1:23). It’s okay when we feel so strongly about something we begin to question our motives. If we never questioned ourselves, we wouldn’t be human. We’d be gods–clearly presenting its own problems (Lucifer was cast from heaven because he claimed equal status with God, Isa. 14:12-13).

The moral of the story is that it’s okay to live and love, to wonder and question, to open our hearts and be heartbroken. The supposition that we would experience no such inner conflict is merely a fiction–to presume that we are more than what God intended for us. Moreover, it would preclude the need for a Savior; a belief I think is foundational to the life of faith.

Published by Paul J. Palma

Paul J. Palma is a professor of Christian history and theology at Regent University. He is the author of the books "Embracing Our Roots: Rediscovering the Value of Faith, Family, and Tradition," "Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity" (Routledge Studies in Religion series), and the forthcoming "Grassroots Pentecostalism in Brazil and North America: Migrations, Missions, and Mobility" (Palgrave Macmillan). He is also a contributing writer for CBN.com. Paul enjoys spending quality time with his family on walks together, going to the beach, fishing, and work around the yard.

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