Furious Love: Changing the Lenses

There are two basic definitions for “fury.” One has to do with a powerful anger, the other with a powerful energy. One of the saddest testimonies of the church is that, too often, we exhibit the wrong one.

A few years ago now, I made my first trip to the city where I now live. There were several people here that I had met online, formed comfortable relationships with, and was looking forward to meeting. But suddenly, when I was here in person, some of them closed up and withdrew, almost avoiding me. When I returned to North Carolina and contacted them online, they were their normal, friendly, outgoing selves again. Over time, I was able to have individual conversations with each one, to ask about it. Each one gave me the same answer: Because I am a Christian, they feared I would judge them and reject them.

Why do unchurched people immediately associate the church—and worse—God, with judgment and rejection? Why didn’t my friends, instead, assume that I would love them and be a safe place for them?

For all that the church has talked, on the inside, about love, that isn’t what she’s projecting to the world. And when she does that, she smears the lens through which the world looks at God. And as they look through that lens, they see a furiously angry God, not a furiously loving one.

I’m well aware that some of my churched friends think that I’ve gone too soft and that I’m compromising. But that experience of seeing through my friends’ eyes changed me. I’m attempting to be a clearer lens for people to see through to see the furious love of God in me and through me.

I fail.

I fail a lot.

I don’t always love others well. I tend to love them the way I would want to be loved instead of the way they need to be loved. And there is a big difference between the two.

I don’t always love myself well. I beat myself often and thoroughly. I don’t accept compliments, nor believe them. And I rarely ask for help, or accept it when it’s offered.

But I’m working on it all, one day at a time, with the help of a God who furiously loves me just the way I am, but loves me too much to let me stay that way.

“Those of us scarred by sin are called to closeness with Him around the banquet table.” (Manning, 32)

What kind of lens are you? When people look through you, do they see a furiously angry God or a furiously loving one?

This post is part of a weekly discussion on Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God.” You don’t have to be reading the book to leave a comment. Please feel free to join in the discussion! If you have written a response to this chapter, you may link it at the widget, which can be found at my co-facilitator, Jason’s blog, Connecting to Impact. Thanks for coming by!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Isn’t it sad that the “church” has this reputation? Sadly I have seen it to be true too often. 🙁

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Nancy, the good news is that WE are the church! We who carry Jesus in our hearts… Wherever we are, whenever we’re together, we’re the church. I’m glad God has given us each other! (And I can’t wait to see you at BaconFest!) HUGS!

  3. Yep, we preach the wrong Gospel. There were a ton of great nuggets in this chapter to quote, but I also really like this one: “the kingdom of God is not a subdivision for the self-righteous”. We read stories like Manning’s and remember our own story that brought us here. We all have a story like that yet we forget our plank in order to focus on another’s speck.

    Here’s a question, knowing that Manning had been a missionary and a priest, what was your reaction to his description waking up on the street? I had to go back and read his bio to see where this fell in because my first reaction was “this must’ve been before he was in the priesthood.” Wrong! Even recognizing exactly where he was, I still had enough religiosity to be taken aback by his story. How about you?

  4. Wow! What a powerful post this is for me. This stood out to me: “I don’t always love myself well. I beat myself often and thoroughly. I don’t accept compliments, nor believe them. And I rarely ask for help, or accept it when it’s offered.”

    You’ve described me well. And I’m afraid with the other things you mention that I’ve done more damage to advance the Kingdom of Christ than promote it.

  5. Oh Sarah, all too often this is true. The interesting is, the church is supposed to be Jesus to the world. And most unbelievers have nothing whatsoever negative to say about Jesus, but much negative to say about the church. Great post!

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Frank, I’ve known his story for years, and so that didn’t really surprise me. Also, as somebody who grew up in the church, got saved at the age of 8, and then fell myself, I am very intimate with the reality that even saved people can do awful things and make devastating choices. Paul said that what he wants to do, he can’t do, and what he wants not to do, he can’t resist doing. And that’s all of our life stories. I thank God for his grace and mercy!

    When I think of Brennan’s story, I think of an example that Billy Coffey gave, about looking at his wife’s cross-stitch and thinking, “what a mess of thread!” But then he realized he was looking at the wrong side. When we look at Brennan’s life–or at our own–we see a mess. But God’s on the top side. And He sees a beautiful picture. Only God knows how He’s using Brennan’s mess–and our mess–to make a beautiful picture. And further, I remember Gungor’s song, “You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us.”

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Thomas, today is a new day for both of us, my friend. And your comment makes me wish we could sit over coffee and talk. I would tell you how growing up as a pastor’s kid, I was taught that we don’t show people how we really feel. And we don’t share our needs with people because pastors’ families aren’t allowed to have needs. And how bottling all of my needs and feelings up, in the dark, brought me to the brink of suicide a number of times. But this furious love and longing of God arrested me and wouldn’t let me go. Now I’m learning, one day at a time, to show that love to others, while accepting it myself. And then, after I told you all of that, I would sing to you: “How great the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son. To make a wretch His treasure.”

    Thanks for coming by and sharing, Thomas! I’m glad you’ve joined us!

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Lori, it’s sad. They’re supposed to know that we are Christians by our love… And all I can do, in my life, is to try to make that true.

  9. Because of the barriers of the past, it takes time to break down the walls of separation, fear, and anxiety outside or even inside the Church. One “random” act of love isn’t going to cut it, we have to show the love of God over and over to people. If that’s going to happen, that furious love has to touch us first, not just once but over and over. We need reminders. We need refreshers. We need the deeper. I’m with you, Sarah. Great stuff.

  10. Oh sweet Sarah, keep revealing His love. May the slings and arrows shot at you by “the church” bounce off without leaving bruises and scars.
    The world is waiting to know Him, and He is well pleased with you.

  11. What a great illustration with the cross stitch! I’m going to have to use that one

  12. “One of the saddest testimonies of the church is that, too often, we exhibit the wrong one.”

    Too true Sarah. Thankful that He keeps extending His grace and Furious love! Blessings

  13. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, with anybody, inside or outside of the church, one has to EARN the right to speak into a life. And we earn it by love–the more furious, the better. 🙂

  14. Sarah Salter says:

    Karin, sadly, the bruises and scars are already there. But I also recognize that Jesus loves the church. So, I stay. But I also share tables with the unchurched. I was reading in Mark 2 last night about how Jesus ate with the “riff-raff” (that’s how the Message version phrases it), and they embraced him, while the religious ones plotted against him. So, I guess I’m just being like Christ. And if that sets some of my churched friends against me (which, it has), I’m in good company. 🙂

  15. Sarah Salter says:

    Frank, Billy Coffey gives some fantastic illustrations! That one has stuck with me. 🙂

  16. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Philip! 🙂

Speak Your Mind