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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let love settle in...

So many times we focus on the "do not" phrases in scripture as the means by which we should live our lives - the boundaries we are supposed to live within. I am not saying that is necessarily the worst way to look at things, but there is a different take on the matter - we could just live by the one "do" statement which really summarizes all those "do not" ones! I think the "do not" ones are there because we need "concrete" evidence of what is "allowable" versus "disallowed" in this Christian walk.  It isn't as though the "do not" instructions don't matter - they do make it pretty clear for us to know when we are crossing the line.  Yet, if we hear what Jesus taught, it is the one "do" statement which really captures all the others in their entirety.  The do statement? "Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself."  Okay, so maybe you see them as two separate statements - but they really are one - for when we love God in such a way, it is only natural for us to begin to love others in this manner, as well.

The commands given to you in the Scriptures—do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet—and any other command you have heard are summarized in God’s instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does love hurt anyone? Absolutely not. In fact, love achieves everything the law requires. (Romans 13:9-10 VOICE)

Love achieves everything the law requires - nothing is left "undone" when love is at the core of our thoughts and actions.  Paul taught the Corinthian believers to be aware of the beliefs of the other person who may be watching your actions.  Just because the liberty you find in Christ to do something with a clear conscience may be okay for you, you must be considerate of the feelings and perceptions of the other person who views you doing it.  For example, if you are with a recovering alcoholic, ordering wine at dinner for yourself may not be the "kindest" nor "wisest" thing to do. Why?  You didn't order a glass for him, did you?  No, yet you are placing a reminder in front of him of how great the struggle is for him to remain sober.  We aren't exactly being loving in our actions at that point - so being conscious of the struggles, attitudes, and needs of another is at the core of what Jesus wants for each of us.

Paul also went on to share what love is and is not - why? He knew we would get this messed up if we didn't have a little clarity around the subject!  When he tells us love is patient and kind, it isn't one-sided, either.  Love is two-sided - one being as patient to the other as he expects the other to be toward him when patience is needed most.  I probably struggle with this one a little more than "love doesn't celebrate injustice" or "love doesn't tally wrongs". Patience when someone is really not acting wisely, or asks you the same thing over and over again is kind of hard. Yet, they may not even know they are doing something for which patience is needed. We all have our little "spots" in life where we struggle to live out our "love" in a positive way.  I think this is why Jesus focused on "love" so much - he knew if we could get this right, everything else would follow.  Love begins with God, enters into us within the person of Christ, and then is to be lived out in us as we allow the image of Christ to become the the dominant force within us.

If you didn't catch that, I will say it again - all we need to live a life according to the "rules" or "commands" laid out in scripture is to allow the love of God to enter into us fully and begin to change us from the inside out.  God's love is doing the work of helping us to become loving individuals - by embracing all the unlovable stuff within us, transforming it by the power of his grace, and then allowing that love to leak out into the lives of others who need it as desperately as we do.  This is probably why Paul teaches that love fulfills all the law - if it begins to affect all of our life, then all of our life will begin to emanate that love in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  For some of us, love is not an easy subject to latch onto - because we haven't been loved well, we have been told we don't matter or are unlovely, or maybe we just have told ourselves no one could possibly love us because we are this way or that.  Love isn't understood in the mind - it is interpreted in the actions of another on our behalf.  This is why God connected us to his love through the actions of his Son!  He knew we would only understand the intensity of his love through the intensity of those sacrificial actions.

Instead of trying to "not do" this or that, maybe we'd be better served to begin to just allow God's love to settle into the places of our lives where we struggle the most.  Just sayin!