Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reflection Of Love (After beginning Kierkegaard)


Recently I began reading Kierkegaard's book, "Works of Love", and one striking thing floors me with loudspeakers -- the necessity of agape love in real, living, genuine Christianity.

Agape love is the love with which Christ loved us. He loved us while we were His enemies. And so He commanded us, "Love your enemies and bless those who curse you." Agape flows out of the choice to forgive (instead of pursuing compensation/retribution towards our offender). This is the justice of the cross, the higher law, the "deeper magic" (a la Narnia), the mercy that triumphs over judgment. It is so foundational to Christianity that it is smack in the heart of "the Lord's Prayer" and even forms the major punchline of it to which Christ returned after concluding the prayer. "Forgive us as we forgive."

Participating in this agape love begins, obviously, by merely receiving it. God has so loved us in this way (in agape), and therefore He calls us to pass the same love onto others. So John urges us, "Beloved, let us love one another" -- calling us to first realize we are beloved, that we are agape'd by God. But then we are called to pass on that same love, that same forgiveness with which God forgave us, that same blessing which He gave to His enemies (that is, to us) we are to give to our enemies and offenders. Christ said, "Love one another as I have loved you."

I am struck by how, simply put, this is part of the "marriage" relationship between the Bride (the church) and Christ. He wants us to love Him. In the parable of the Sheep & Goats, Christ said that when we love the poor, suffering, hungry and naked, we are in fact loving Him. When we ignore them, neglect them, judge them as lazy or whatever, we are doing it directly to Christ. In the same way, when we choose to not practice and give agape love to our offenders and enemies, we are refusing to give love to Christ Himself. He identified with all of us on the cross. He traded places with us. He loved the world, all humankind. He became sin for all of us. He has valued our offenders just as much as He has valued us ourselves. He has valued your enemy as much as He has valued you. How dare any of us refuse to give His love to the person who has wounded us or hates us? While I hated Him, He still loved, blessed, and gave His life for me.

The reason this shocks me and burns inside me so strongly right now (and which I am losing sleep for to type this) is because it is a dire, dire prophetic warning for Christians in the United States, where profession of faith is king, where correct doctrine is king, where believing the right things is what counts. Where Christians are political, aligned with a political party, where they form the bandwagon to start wars based on fabricated evidence, and where they more than frequently judge non-believers as being immoral. Where they are already gearing up for wars with nations like Iran, where they believe that Christianity is in a holy war against Islam. Where they believe in capital punishment, possessing nuclear weapons, preemptive striking, etc. Where has agape love gone in the American church?

Philip Yancey mentioned a study he read once of the one saying of Jesus that college students (who were unbelievers) remembered the most: it was, "Love your enemies." It is the most incredible and extreme manifestation of agape love. It sounded out an incredible note of grace even to the ears of unbelievers, which although unbelieving, they could never forget. It was and is a seed that continues to stay and germinate inside people. But it is a seed that is not often watered by the political church in the United States, who act so often against that seed. We like to preach about Christ's grace, but we make many excuses so as not to practice His grace.

Didn't Christ prophesy about that? He said that near the end, "the love [agape] of most will grow cold, and many will turn away from the faith." By turning away from agape love (Christ's love), we leave the faith -- no matter what our mouth proclaims, no matter how correct our doctrines are. Christ said that "most" believers' agape love (for it is only believers who truly know agape and have "the faith") would grow cold because of the increase of wickedness in the world. In other words, as the world gets more wicked, more violent, more dangerous, and as wars and rumors of wars increase, the Church is supposed to react with an increase in agape love, not with retribution. But Christ said that "most" professed believers would turn away from the faith -- their love would wax cold. In other words, they would react to wickedness with what they would call "justice", judging that the ever-increasing wickedness deserved such.

Cold agape love believes that the ever-increasing wicked people in the world do not deserve agape love. Cold agape believes that choosing agape is weak, foolish, and probably something a stinkin' liberal or bleeding heart hippie would do. Cold agape believes that it has found a better way to deal with the wicked than Christ's way -- returning blow for blow, an eye for an eye, dispensing "justice" (and believing that when we are successful, it is because God is with us and is against our enemy). They have no idea how truly powerful agape love is, and how much more strength it takes to practice it than it does to mock & ignore it. I think agape love has not had any significant loud voice in in America since the days of Martin Luther King Jr. And it is by this love (agape) that Christ said the world would know His disciples. Is the world knowing American Christians by Christ's agape love -- by forgiveness and love for our enemies?

Coming back to the Bride and Bridegroom, I believe that by turning away from agape love (and continually mocking as "bleeding hearts" those who advocate it), we are in fact turning away from Christ. Because Christ has died for all and identified Himself with our enemies (we ourselves were first His enemies), when we refuse to extend His forgiveness and agape love to our enemies, we are refusing to give love to Him. We want to profess Him and claim His name (and say we are "a Christian nation"), but we don't want to love Him. We want to say we love Him (in "church"), but we don't want to actually practice loving Him by loving the weak, sharing our economy on the streets, or giving grace to our enemies and offenders.

I ask: what does it mean when we continue to behave as though all were as it should be, calling ourselves Christians according to the New Testament, when the ideals of the New Testament have gone out of life?

(Kierkegaard, from Journals, 19 June 1852)

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