Relationships: Problems with Love in Our Culture

This entry is part [part not set] of 10 in the series Relationships - Buck McCallum

Relationships: Problems with Love in Our Culture

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People’s love will grow cold

Biblical predictions

Several months ago we finished a series on biblical prophecy.  We got into a lot of remarkable predictions that the Bible makes about our time and things yet to come.  But one that I left out or didn’t discuss very much was in Matthew 24.  It was a prediction of Jesus about the state of love in the world towards the end of history.

Because of the increase of lawlesness, the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).

This is one of the scariest predictions Jesus makes.  The Bible foretells that there will be wars.  But I figure I’ll get by somehow.  The Bible foretells about plagues and natural disasters.  But I figure I’ll make it.  But this one, this one touches the issue of human relationships–something we all deal with from day to day.

There are some other biblical predictions about this phenomenon.  The apostle Paul puts it this way,

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful . . . (2 Timothy 3:1, 2)

The Bible predicts that there is going to be a moral decay in the world that is unprecedented.  People will only think about themselves.  And, as a result says Jesus, love will grow cold.

I ask myself, Is this happening today?  And as soon as I ask it I realize what a stupid question that is.  What could be more obvious?!

Now I realize that people have always complained that the moral standards of our country are eroding.  And it has been a platform for many a reform and many a political candidate.  But never have there been the kind of facts to back up that that we see today.

The facts

The generation born from 1961-1981, known as the children of the Baby Boomers, has a few problems:

It is struck harder by divorce than any other generation.  In fact, the difference with previous generations is outrageous, more than double.  40% of us were children of divorced families.  An even greater percentage were latchkey kids.  This means that we are unskilled at relationships, to say the least.  Skeptical and cynical would be better terms.

We are the most incarcerated generation.  There are more of us in jail than any other culture has ever seen.  They can’t build jails fast enough to hold us.

The rate of teen suicide is higher than any other generation in this century.  Before that, stats were not reliable to it’s hard to compare.

But you add on top of that the moral confusion that we are faced with.  It’s incredible.  Parents usually trust the schools to teach right and wrong.  But here was a headline recently in a newspaper, “Ethics Classes Avoid Teaching Right and Wrong.”

Now, our parents say about that, “What!?  Ethics classes avoid teaching right and wrong!?”  But I know exactly what that article is saying.  I was there in school.  And it wasn’t just that they tried to avoid teaching right and wrong.  They tried to tear down any concept of right and wrong that we might have had.  I remember in classes have myself or one of the other kids raise our hands and say, “Hey, this is the way it’s gotta be!  It’s the right thing to do!”  And then the teacher would say, “Really?  Who says?  Are you aware that in such-and-such a culture they don’t do it that way?  Are you trying to say that they’re wrong?!”  They would deliberately hack away at any sense that there was a moral absolute.

That’s what our system does, whether it’s the school system or the culture around us.  It tries to instill in us that there are no ultimate values.  Our culture says that your values and morals are OK as long as nobody gets hurt.  That’s pretty confusing.

And you know what’s worse?  When we’re steeped in that kind of teaching, people do get hurt.  We don’t know how to handle that kind of ambiguity.

Example: There’s the story of Rod Matthews.  At the age of 14, he lured a friend into the woods, and then started beating him to death while he screamed for help.  You think, “Man, he must have really been angry at the guy!”  But no.  He did it because he wanted to see what death was like.  He had been watching “Faces of Death,” and he wanted to see it live.  At the trial, a psychiatrist testified that Rod was not insane in the usual way that you might consider insanity.  The problem was that “he didn’t have a strong internal sense of right and wrong . . . So that he is morally handicapped.”

I know why that is.  I tell you what scares me.  I think I know other people who might do the same kind of thing if they weren’t afraid of what would happen to them.

Example: A prosecutor being interviewed in US News and World Report said that the thing that scares him about the younger people he is working with today is that they have no value for human life.  They don’t give a hoot about it.

These are examples that you may consider extreme.  But I’ll tell you that it is not unusual for people our age to not have the slightest idea of what is right and wrong.  And even when people think that they know, they usually don’t know why!  And that means that’s a pretty shakey foundation.

Why does Jesus say that our moral decline will mean a decline in love?

Jesus said because of this type of situation, love would grow cold.  I know that something about it makes a lot of sense, just intuitively.  But we need to look closer at why it is that Jesus says that love will grow cold because of a culture’s moral decline.

To understand this better, we’ll look at a couple things that love needs to grow.  You want to cultivate love between people, then there needs to be some ingredients there.  When these ingredients are taken away when our life becomes so un-together, so damaged and broken in the moral area, it becomes virtually impossible to love.

Love needs trust

Love needs an atmosphere of trust to flourish.  We can see this from a number of the passages which talk about love.  But in I Cor. 13, there are several statements that describe what I’m talking about,

Love is is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is something most of us feel almost automatically.  But let me say something that may kind of surprise you.  I don’t need to trust someone in order to love them.  But, I will need to earn their trust in order for them to let me love them.

Do you see the difference?  Usually we think, “Yeah!  How can I love you if I can’t even trust you!?”  But that’s not what I’m saying at all!  What I’m saying is, How do you expect anyone to let you really love them if they can’t trust you?  They will always protect themselves.

The Bible tells us in John 2, that Jesus didn’t trust people.  That doesn’t mean that he always thought the worst and always judged people’s motives.  It just means that he saw people for what they were.  As it says in that passage, “He knew what was in people.”  And yet, the Bible tells us that there has never been a greater love than the love that Jesus had for people.  So you can deeply love people, even if they aren’t trustworthy.  Because love is something I do for you.  It’s not something I demand from you.

On the other hand, if we set out to love people, how do we expect them to feel loved by us if they can’t trust us–at least to a certain extent?  They would always feel unsafe and guarded.

A breakdown in trust happens two ways.  For one, if your character is insincere, then that shows.

This is definitely the greatest barrier between men and women.  We have a hard time relating to each other because we can’t help but suspect the hidden agenda.  Why do you suppose it is that when you put a group together, they always divide up according to the sexes?  It’s because there’s more safety there.  There’s just a slight degree more trust.

I remember when I was single and still checking out the women.  You might be at a place like this.  And then every once in a while there was that real forward woman.  I don’t want to say there’s anything bad about that at all.  But I know what it made me think, “Wow!  What does she want!?  What are her plans!?”

But the issue is that it’s hard to open yourself to let someone love you if there is no trust.  And it’s really even harder in our culture because the morals in our society say it’s OK to take whatever you can from a person and then move on.  And in a relationship where there’s no value in commitment, how much trust can there be?

You know what happens?  What happens is that we’ll still have human relationships.  In the case of men and women, we’ll still have sex.  Because we feel the need for human contact.  But it won’t be love, because there is no real trust.  There will still be partnerships, but never truly deep.  We’ll still share something about ourselves, but never the real thing.  Because love needs trust.

So, love just get’s shallower and shallower.

But also, if I, as the receiver of love, am a very selfish person or a rip-off, then I will project that on to others and again make it impossible to trust people.

Example: I remember when I came around this church here and heard all this talk about love.  I heard teachings about it that sounded noble.  I watched people act like they had it going on in their lives.  But I didn’t believe it.  Not for one minute.  “There’s no way!  There’s no such thing!”

I was reasoning from the way I was.  I know I was self-centered . . .

Love needs sacrifice

Paul said that part of the moral decline will be that people will be lovers of self.  Now, you have to realize it’s hard to realize it stinks till you get off the farm, right?

The point is that it may be hard for us to really appreciate just how self-absorbed our culture really is.  We have a problem.  We’re so self-absorbed that when we look at a list like Paul’s in 2 Tim. 3, about half those things we think, “What’s the big deal?”

Well, in order for love to really flourish, there has to be someone who loves to give.  Love needs a person who sacrifices.  Love needs a person who gives of himself to another.

John says that sacrifice is an essential ingredient of love.  I John 3:16 puts it this way,

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Now Jesus really did lay down his life, literally.  But John is saying that is the level of sacrifice we should be willing to give each other.

Talk about a different moral standard: In our culture, we think just the opposite.  A person who laid down his life for another person would be a sucker.  You don’t be going and sacrificing yourself for other people!

Example: I admit I have a problem here.  It’s coming on Christmas time.  What do I start thinking of?  All the great things I can give people?  Actually, the way it works in my mind is, “How can I work it out so that I spend less on other people than they spend on me?  And still get what I want?”

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get people together, to develop love relationships.  And you know what the biggest problem is?  You know what the biggest barrier is?  I’ll be talking to someone and they’ll say, “He doesn’t do anything for me.”  He doesn’t excite me.  He’s not fun enough.  Whatever.

We’re all waiting for someone to love us!  Talk about a frigid environment.  Everyone is standing around with their arms crossed waiting!  Now and then we venture out to see what we can get from someone else.

And God is saying that love needs someone to sacrifice first.  It needs someone who says, “I’ll sacrifice whether you do or not!”

What scares me: Cynicism

I know that sounds unreal.  It sounds strange.  And that’s what kind of bothers me.  What bothers me is the cynicism.  It’s that people think like I used to.  There’s a feeling out there that there really is no such thing as love.

Example: I watch a movie like “Pump Up the Volume,” and his big thing was “Life sucks.  People are insincere.  You can’t trust anybody.”  And he got popular because that’s the way that people felt.  “Yeah!  Life sucks!  You can’t trust anybody!”  That proposition was never answered.  And that’s because it can’t be answered.  There is no answer.  People really are only concerned about themselves.  People are insincere.

There is no hope of real love–that is, without the love of God.

We said about this series that the love of God is unlike anything in the whole universe.  And I really meant it.  God’s love is like this.  God sees that we need help.  God sees that things are screwed up around here.  But you know what else he sees?  He sees that we don’t want help!  He sees that we like doing things our way.  He sees that we like running our lives.

But in spite of that, God comes and gives his life for us.  He comes to earth and dies for us.  So that we could be forgiven.  So that we wouldn’t have to be judged for the things we do.  God dies for us.

Nobody asked him to.  In fact, it was us humans who put him to death!

Example: What could you compare this to?  It’s like someone rips you off.  And then you go to the person and say, “Hey, I forgive you.”  And he starts beating on you, “I didn’t want your forgiveness, jerk!”

But he comes and he dies for us so that he can now turn to us and say, “Here, take my forgiveness.  Take my love.  Take my acceptance.”  Look at a great passage in

It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are.  It doesn’t matter what you do.  It doesn’t matter.  God wants to love you!  God wants to have a relationship with you.

That’s what we call unconditional love.  Lot’s of people talk about it, but who has ever really done it?  God has.

And people look at that, and they hear about that, and they say, “No way!  There’s no way anyone would just love you and accept you for nothing!  There has to be a catch!  There has to be a price-tag!”

And that’s the cynicism that I hate!  I see it in myself.  It’s the cynicism that kept me from enjoying a good thing for so long!  I said, “There’s no way!”  I hate that!  God is offering his love!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God is like you.  If you want to get into love for what it was really meant to be, then open yourself up to let God love you first.

And he says that we can experience it and with time, learn to give it to others.

We need idealists.  We need people who won’t settle for less.  We need people who say, “I want to experience the real thing!”

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