In this recent string of Saturday entries we've been talking about love, one way or another. There's no grand plan to all this (it's only blogging, after all), but love has been the item, the fruit of the Spirit, that I've been focused on lately.
We were sitting in a cirle in the basement of the church talking
about the second chapter of Peter's first letter, about eight of us.
I asked the group for their thoughts on Peter's phrase, “Spiritual
sacrifice.” What is a spiritual sacrifice?
A couple of people spoke up, drawing on Romans 12. I don't
remember what they said, but I do remember what a third person said.
She's a new believer and trying hard to understand things. She's a
little unsure of herself and seems afraid sometimes that her words
will not be quite right, not have the proper ring or nuance, and
often apologizes for what she has said after she says it. This time
she said, “I think spiritual sacrifice refers to love. It's loving
people, that's all.”
Yup, that rings true. It's a deceptively simple answer, but it's
the Gospel truth. Love is the fundamental quality of Kingdom living.
Even as the Kingdom has not yet fully come into its own, we are not
yet fully lovers. Not, as anyone can see, by a longshot. We have not
even begun to fathom the depths of this challenge to love, and more
often than not we're distracting ourselves with lesser things.
We have a prayer and share time in our church. People share prayer
needs, or praise God for what He has been doing in their lives during
the past week. I really like the prayer and share time. I look
forward to it. This week someone shared something that was a little
different than the usual. He was with his wife, only making his
second visit (I think) to our church. The husband raised his hand and
said, “I'd like to ask that we pray that the Church as a whole
would repent of associating itself with a particular political
alignment in here in America.”
Whoa, wait a minute! That the church should repent! That's not
what we normally here in our prayer and share time, and most of us in
this particular church are fairly comfortable with the political
alignment of the Evangelical church at large.
After the service I walked over to thank him for what he'd shared.
We talked a little about the Christian culture's attitude toward
homosexuals, and also its ringing silence on the subject of
war-making. Somewhere along the way he said, “Love is really the
main thing, isn't it? I mean, should we be trying to figure out this
love thing? What kind of testimony is it that we seem to be more
about a political agenda than about loving people?”
Yup, that also rings true.
It often seems to me that Christians fall into two basic
categories: you have the Love Christians, and the Obedience
Christians. It's a matter of where they focus, I guess. Obedience
Christians quote all the relevant Scriptures and in the end focus on
not sinning. Love Christians, citing just as much Scripture, focus on
walking out the love of Christ. Obedience Christians talk about
striving and doing. Love Christians talk about abiding. Obedience Christians, in
my opinion, always seem to have all their ducks in a row. They make
sound and orderly arguments from Scripture and they often rail
against emotionalism. Love Christians seem more humble, more prone to
repent of their hard-heartedness and to ask for soft-hearts.
Obedience Christians speak much of the Law and of righteousness, and
the doctrine of justification is never far from their lips. Love Christians
speak much of the Kingdom, and of the Spirit of Holiness, and of
being filled with the Spirit.
I guess you can tell which one I'm trying to be. The Christian struggle is the
struggle to fully love. In the end the Obedience Christians and the
Love Christians get to the same place of course, because obedience to
God, when you see it walked out, looks exactly like love. The reason
is right there in Romans: love fulfills the Law.
Paul said it, but Jesus showed it to us. The command is, walk in
love. We have not so mastered this that we should move on now to