Fulfilled in Jesus

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Scandal of the Love Command

I love the Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote Philip Yancey put into "What's So Amazing About Grace?" when noting that grace fundamentally has about it the scent of scandal:

"There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of 'justification by faith only' can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace...

I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation."

I wonder if the reverse is true about the depth of the command to love? (>_<) Lord, help me understand and write about this, just to get my head around this.

The truth of salvation by faith alone through Your grace is easily misunderstood and easily abused. You meant it that way. It is dangerous. It has the scent of scandal, as Philip Yancey said. Like a dirty rumor to our sense of justice, retribution and fairness. But that's what You've given us -- something free. Something not dependent on righteous things we have done or will do, but instead dependent on what You have done for us in Jesus Christ. Alone. And without our help. Thank You, Hallelu Yah!!! (>_<)

So then, Lord, the result is that the religious get offended. It's too easy, they say. It's not fair. It's not right that people can get in that easy. It has to be more secure. It has to be more tight. It can be abused. People can misinterpret it, so we have to "fix" it to make it less vulnerable to ...to well, to allowing any possibility that someone could claim Your grace and live sinful. Because the bottom line, actually, is that they don't want people breaking Your laws, etc. They want people living uprightly. They want a sinless society. They want everything to be perfect, and look at Your grace as if it was meant to make everything perfect, meant to make us perfect. But anyway, that's how they try to improve on it and make the door harder to get through. It's not wide open as You left it, not vulnerable to abuse.

Now what I'm wondering is if the necessity of Your command to love has the same fundamental problem, that it habitually gets abused and misunderstood, and if perhaps that's exactly the way You made it? (>_<)

The command is to love, and You say that he who loves lives in You, and he who does not love does not know You. And then as in James, You said that faith without the works of love is dead. And that faith without works of love is not a faith that can save.

So then, in reverse, (>_<) if your preaching of the command to love does not rankle some feathers, something is wrong. If your preaching of Your command to love does not get met with a few people misunderstanding, met with a few people saying that you are preaching salvation by works, then something is wrong. Because You gave the command to love with great, great gravity attached to it. (>_<)

The thing about that command to love is that it is such a hard-to-pin-down thing, "love". It is clearly more than a feeling. It is a choice and an action. And yet it is such a choice and action that it implies you have feeling. Or rather, what you're doing in this act of love is to invite feeling to come in. You're opening the door to feeling coming in later. But feeling isn't finally the point.

The command to love strikes at the heart, at the deepest place in us, and convicts us to give what we don't feel like giving. To walk in love towards those we feel little or no love for. To do what You did in loving us all the way to the cross. The command in its ultimate form is as You said in John 13, to love one another as You have loved us.

This is part of abiding in You. It's amazing. It's an action (love), yet it is something that by nature is so spiritual, striking us at our very core. If we don't love, our faith is nothing. But as soon as anyone starts making a list of what it means to "love", you know they're fishy. As soon as they start listing commands from the Old Covenant, they start to fall short of the height of Your command to love one another as You have loved us. Yes, all those moral things in the Old Covenant are in there. But nothing reaches as high as Your life and Your cross, Jesus.

It's interesting, this sort of balance or tension. Although it's not in the Bible, I can't find a better example than the physical heart. A quote from a book made me draw a picture of it:

Our Heart's Need is...
(click on the picture to read about it)

Our physical hearts need an inflow *and* an outflow. If either the inflow or the outflow is stopped, our hearts will stop beating and we will die. Our love in You is like that. It is meant to be received and lived out. It's not a mere command to be externally obeyed, but rather something that flows from receiving Your blood given for us -- Your love, Your grace given to us --Your enemies-- who did not deserve it, overwhelmingly, freely given to us. And You love *all* people this way!

How can we not be broken by Your heart for how much You loves other people? How can we not be broken by Your love (broken to the point where we extend and share that undeserved grace & love) because Your blood was given for them just as much as it was given for us ourselves?

So now I come back to the original question. If we do not love, if we do not agape as He has agape'd us, the New Testament says that our faith is dead and worthless. Fake. Unfruitful. Nothing. The New Testament presents the command to love (to agape) in such forceful and heavy terms that theologians have gone to great lengths to try and smooth things out -- that is, make sure that it is not a "work" that earns salvation. And while I don't think it is a work that earns salvation, the New Testament preaches it so forcefully that it skirts very close to sounding like that. I think that if our preaching and teaching does not rankle some feathers and make people uncomfortable with complacency and inaction, we're not preaching the New Testament gospel that not only tells us to receive grace, but also commands us to give it.

"Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us."

"For if you do not forgive men their sins, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins."

I mean, that's some harsh reality, Lord!

I think we aren't preaching the full gospel if we aren't preaching this stuff, Lord. Really, I have not seen this stuff preached in my home country of America since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. Today it would translate to the church praying for, forgiving, and loving terrorists, liberals, abortion doctors, etc. Drawing healthy boundaries, of course, but loving and proclaiming that love in word and deed a hell of a lot louder than the regular stream of condemnation we issue instead to those parties.

Preaching that kind of love really upsets people. It upsets our sense of justice, our sense of our right to strike back, our right to use force, etc. We like the "grace" part of the gospel, and we receive that for ourselves. We sing about it. We proclaim it. But we don't like the part that says give grace as you have received it, regardless of whether they "deserve" it or not.

What strikes me is that if you preach this kind of love, you will make a lot of enemies fast. And you will also shock a lot of people, because this kind of love is unearthly. I realize that *this* was meant to be the distinguishing mark of God's people on earth -- "By this all men will know that you are My disciples" is the way You put it, Lord. And I realize it was for this kind of grace that You gave to the undeserving (and condemnation to those who opposed it), it was for this that the religious specialists hated You so much and handed You over to be crucified.

I don't know how to wrap up this musing, Lord, but I am cut to the heart by the importance of Your command to love. I just ask You to renew Your church in this command, especially in my home country which has been so good at making excuses so as not to extend grace & agape love to those who don't "deserve" it. Help us know and preach the full Gospel, Jesus, in Your name, amen.

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