“The Misunderstood God” by Darin Hufford

If you have ever looked at a couple of hormonal teenagers and thought to yourself, “Those kids don’t know the first thing about love,” then you may have a fair idea of how God thinks about some of us: We hardly know the first thing about love. You only have to listen to the way we talk to know that this is so. We tell others that we want to be “used by God” as if love ever uses people. We boast of our “commitment to Christ” as if the substance of love consisted of making promises. We testify that God has sent us into the wilderness or made us sick to teach us things as if God would ever do such things.

And then we wonder why those listening don’t want to know Him!

“Whatever we believe about love, we believe about God.” So says Darin Hufford in his book The Misunderstood God and it is profound truth. God is love. If your definition of love has been filtered through our fallenness and twisted by religion, you will inevitably end up with a screwy picture of God. This is the chief reason why so many people who claim to know God are miserable. They have been told that God values us as servants and that He relates to us as a general relates to a soldier. “Relationship” for them is not about enjoying life together but following orders. It’s a monologue rather than a dialogue.

Tragically, a mixed-up view of God’s love has a devastating effect on relationships with others. For instance, there are those who worry that they may be loving their spouses or their children too much. They fear they may be turning their loved ones into idols and incurring the jealously of a vengeful God. Here’s Hufford:

I am always mystified when I hear people boastfully say, “I love God more than my wife.” The only way to love God more than your spouse is to love God through your spouse. Your husband or wife would be the direct recipient of the love.… The God who is love loves it when we love.… God is never in competition with your love for people! Any time you love a person, you are not far from God. (p.54)

Then there are those who love their family too little, possibly because they believe that family distracts from some higher calling, such as ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth:

Your love for people is the evidence that God is living inside you.… It shocks me to see so many people who honestly believe that God desires a separate and secret relationship with them aside from their family members. Many men will lock themselves in their prayer closets while their wives are in another room watching the kids alone. I call this adultery. (pp.54-5)

Religion has sold us a bunch of lies about the love of God. We have been told that God is envious, distrustful, needy, angry, distant, and that He keeps a record of wrongs. Fall for these lies and it will de-humanize you. You’ll waste your life trying to force-fit your dreams and desires into a religious mold and you’ll be utterly miserable. If you’re already miserable, or you just want a clearer picture of what God is really like, I recommend that you read Hufford’s book:

God never envies anyone or anything. He never desires to take for Himself what others have. Instead, He longs to give away all He has… He keeps no record of the wrong things you’ve done because He refuses to call you by the name of your past… God always perseveres, proving He is who He claims to be. He stands through the storm and walks through the fire simply to express His love for you. He will never fail you, never fall short, never fall out of love, because He’s made of love, the very source of it all. (pp.208-210)

(If you like that, you’ll find other nuggets from Hufford over on GraceQuotes.com.)

The Misunderstood God is a two-punch book. The first punch – who is God really? – is a knockout blow. Hufford’s response to 17 lies taught by religion will leave you with a good sense of just how deeply God loves you and that alone is worth the price of admission. However, the second punch – how do we experience His love? – left me hanging.

The unwritten rules of love

Paul famously prayed that we would know the measureless love of God, for it’s in knowing His love that we truly live. So how do we come to know His love? Hufford says that God’s love is experienced in loving people. “When you truly love someone unconditionally… that flame of love inside your heart is God” (p.205). Okay, well how do you come to love someone unconditionally? According to Hufford, that kind of love comes as a result of knowing how much God loves us: “When I finally got it and knew that I knew that God was crazy about me for no other reason than that I was his son, I began to love others” (p.200). So the love of God is experienced in loving people, but the love for people only comes when you already know the love of God? Hmm. I am reminded of questions involving chickens and eggs.

Hufford’s examples shed no further light on this. Many of his stories revolve around his love for his children. Well I have found that it’s easy to love your own kids; the hard part is loving your neighbor’s kids, particularly when they are throwing a wild party in the wee small hours of the night. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” but how do you do that? How do you love those who condemn your ministry and write nasty things on your blog?

If I was an Old Covenant preacher, these sorts of questions would not trouble me. I would simply say, “You had jolly well better grow in the love of God, you lukewarm creature you! And you had better love your neighbor while you’re at it. Otherwise you’re in big trouble!” The Old Covenant, despite its faults, provides clear rules telling us what to do along with carrots and sticks to get us to do it.

But in the New Covenant we tread the unmarked path of freedom. We are given an invitation and a Guide… and not much else! When it comes to love there are no rules – “all things are lawful” – just opportunities. For a newly liberated slave all this freedom can be overwhelming. Tell me God, what I am supposed to do? And the God who loves you enough to die for you will respond, What would you like to do? Crumbs! This is most unexpected. Well, Lord. I want to do whatever pleases you. I want to decrease; you must increase. And God will do a face-palm.

Imagine if you married someone who spoke like that. I want to do whatever you want to do dear. It’s not about me, it’s all about you. That would be fun for about a week. I just want to be used by you. I just want others to know how much I am committed to you. Then your heart would break.

Happily lost in an undiscovered country

Jesus didn’t come to recruit servants but to give us abundant life founded on the Father’s unconditional love. For those of us used to being told what to do, this new life can be a little bit scary, but in an exciting sort of way. To paraphrase Star Trek, the love of God is an undiscovered country. It’s an adventure tailor-made by Him just for you. Paul said the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19). His love is so great it’s not reducible to rules or books. It’s easier to say what the love of God isn’t like, as Hufford does in his book and Paul does in 1 Corinthians 13. God is not proud, rude or self-seeking. He is not easily provoked and He thinks no evil of you. In short, God is nothing like the evil picture painted by religion. But when it comes to discovering the fullness of what God is like, well that’s the Great Adventure of Life!

When it comes to experiencing the love of God I don’t have all the answers – I don’t even have the questions! But I know I would rather be lost in His arms of love than found in the shackles of the loveless law. If that’s where you want to be as well, then The Misunderstood God will certainly help you get there.
___
Related posts
- Is God’s love unconditional? 7 reasons to say Yes!
- Your one big truth and the wisdom of Puddleglum
- see all E2R’s book reviews here

Comments

  1. Fantastic Paul! I love this book. It was a huge stepping stone on my journey. Finally cracked open the shell I’d built around myself that stopped me from seeing the true depths of his love – and it just keeps getting better!!

  2. Thanks Paul,
    The new covenant is a completely different head space, everything changes. And we become ruined… none of the old covenant satifies anymore (even my good work). It’s like going from black & white to technicolour, I’m ruined for black & white forever. Cheers, Graeme

  3. clement NG says:

    Profound, eye opening. Thks Paul, for another life changing moment in the Truth!

  4. opheliathomas777 says:

    I just wanted to say I appreciate you and your ministry It is all about Jesus which I LOVE!!! I really enjoyed this and ask for your agreement with for God’s LOVE to shine through me in all I say and do… IN Jesus name AMEN God Bless you HUGS

  5. Good reviews Paul – as if I’ve read the book. Definitely I’m getting this book.

  6. James Miller says:

    Hi Paul,
    thanks again for your thoughtful appraisal of another book, if only I had the time:-)The very reason Jesus spoke these following words is he wanted to warn us of the obstacles we will face while seeking this love, “The thief only comes to kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10) We need Jesus to help us overcome this thief who is spiritually trying to rob us of the true understanding and experience. God offers us an abundant life, found in Christ Jesus only. It does seem most of us are looking to temporal pleasures to find contentment, rather than looking to Jesus. Unless we do so, the pleasures of this life I reakon receive their un-proper proportion.Yes,as you state the love of God is truly awesome, and as you say, undiscovered, an adventure that surpasses knowledge and understanding. Or better still, as stated is a love that is never reducible to formulaic, shackling laws, a love we find hard to comprehend.
    On checking the Message version of your ref, is put succinctly, “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit, not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength, and Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God”.
    How do we go about this Paul, one way Jesus encouraged us, is to seek the time to escape from the pressures we face. He said come with him to a quiet place. When we do so, even in a moment God can give us space to recharge our batteries and experience for ourselves His awesome love!

    • Thanks James – good advice. I draw a parallel with my home situation. As I work from home, I am constantly in the presence of my wife. But I can easily get distracted to the point that her proximity is irrelevant. I have to draw aside to enjoy her company. Reminds me of something Jesus said about being weighed down with the cares of life. He’s not going to hammer you for being careful, but you’re missing out on being carefree and enjoying His love. Great paraphrase too from the Message!

  7. Paul Harding says:

    Love it, mate. Again, my mind has lost a few chains – just when I think I’ve understood Grace, there’s more to amazed by! I’m struck by DH’s “Whatever we believe about love, so we believe about God”. What conceit we can have to love our families as we do and yet believe our Father’s love is a vindictive version of the same – Him, the very author!

  8. I have this book and I absolutely love it. It popped up in my Amazon recommended and I had to get it. I didn’t get to order it (I also don’t live in the States… in fact, I live on a tiny island) but when my husband and I visited the States, I sought out this book at a Barnes and Noble and I was so happy I did. I read it and I was overwhelmed. It helped open my eyes to a lot of wrong thinking. I can’t say that I don’t struggle anymore. I have a lot of years of wrong thinking and wrong images of love to get rid of but, little by little, thought my thought, my mind is being renewed.

  9. I’m yet to read the book, but the first time i saw it at the bookstore, it totally jumped out and blurred the rest of the books on the shelf.

    i grew up in a religion of fear to God. Everyone in our church regards God as this high and mighty guy we cannot oppose lest we get whacked with divine punishment. the Bible giving accounts of God saying yes to mass genocides and then describing him as a God of love made me conclude that he’s bipolar, and i don’t wanna serve a bipolar God. i’m hoping that Mr. Hufford is going to chance my view of who God really is.

    p.s. i currently label myself an agnostic theist. :)

  10. I would like to have more and more of these revelations and need to know about marriages and devorces

  11. Paul,
    I look forward to the day I can give you a big hug in heaven! And this Hufford guy too. The things I am learning here- I can’t even explain what it’s doing to me! I have just been crying with joy over these revelations of God’s grace that are setting me free from things I’ve learned in church! The change on the inside of me is so overwhelming, I feel like I’m going to burst! And I want to burst with frustration too, that others can’t see it.- And that your teachings are called “false doctrines” and “slippery slopes” in my church. They would say you are a false prophet leading me astray, setting me up for disappointment. They think the Bible verses that warn of false prophets who tickle your ears, are referring to teachers like you. I am starting to see the irony though is they may unknowingly be the teachers of false doctrines we are to be aware of. I have always thought mainstream Christianity had to be the right way. But maybe the road less traveled is truly the way- the way that is rejected, even by most churches. Maybe the ways we’ve always been taught are not right after all. That’s why we have to seek God amd truth and find out for ourselves… Not just go with what we’re told.

    Have you ever read David Platt’s book, Radical? We studied it for months in Sunday School. I was thoroughly confused and depressed and guilt-ridden during that time. Through reading your site here, the answers are starting to come together, and the Bible is starting to make sense. I think there were some good points in the book Radical, and the end result of what Platt was trying to achieve was good. But we as Christians will have a much easier time getting there if the work is done through an understanding of love and grace. Radical seemed to be very law-based, striving based, self-denial based, we owe Jesus based. You get the point. There was talk of forsaking family for the Gospel’s sake, with scriptures backing this up. That just tore me apart. So reading this review of Hubbard’s book literally made me sit up, put the iphone down, and weep! This is truly too-good-to-be true news!
    Now how to get others to see it? Do I try to change my church’s mind? Or do I change churches?

    • Thanks Amber. Your last question is a toughie, one that many of us have had to ask.

    • Amber – Are you aware that there are thousands, likely millions who have had the same experience of awakening, enlightenment, peace, joy, etc. I’m only about 8 months into my Grace journey following a full 30 years of being a fairly depressed and fearful Christian. My story is just like yours as far as finally having everything Christian finally make sense, depression and anxiety go away, peace and joy and all the fruit of the Spirit growing with no effort by me, etc. It’s real, Amber. I believe you have found The Pearl of Great Price, as I believe I have. Finding this Truth within the last year feels like the highest mountaintop experience of my life. And it’s lasting. It won’t grow old!!!

  12. I read the book, entertaining read but I’d take his opinions with a grain of salt, as I could see he’s been mislead about God throughout his life then came to his own conclusions later on, I’m doubtful about some of his bold statements in the book.
    Some parts are all over the place, but I like the anecdotes at the beginning of the chapters.
    I would recommend it to someone who felt brainwashed and stuff and would want some much-needed love.

  13. I don’t know why, but to be told that God loves me, Jesus loves me, died for me, etc., does not touch my feelings. He loves everyone, so of course he loves me!

    My point is this: If my love for God is expressed through my love for others (and I don’t have a problem with that), and that is dependent upon my “receiving” God’s love, then where am I? Can I assume that, because I am easily able to love, give to, and forgive other people, that I have “received” the love of God, even though I don’t feel it? (I also don’t “feel” any emotional love for God…but that’s another story.) Thank you!

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