Saturday, March 15, 2014

More on love and obedience

I posted a little while ago about Love Christians and Obedience Christians. It seemed to me, as I said then, that most Christian preaching and teaching fall insto one or the other category. It is either lands finally on the extolling of love, or the extolling of obedience.

Other ways that we often divide up (cessationist v. continuationist, Reformed v. Arminian, Protestant v. Catholic, etc.) really are not nearly as significant to me. Some people will read through the Scriptures and, when they come upon a juicy obedience passage, they slow down, they nod in agreement and get excited about telling others. If they are preachers, they dwell on that passage while glossing over, it might seem, the larger context.

Because the larger context, I would argue, is love (specifically, the love of God). Sometimes I'm amazed at how it can be in our churches that love gets talked down while obedience gets talked up. Love gets glossed over while obedience is given time and close scrutiny. Every pastor has the privileged position of being able to speak at length without interruption, and they also don't know what to do with themselves if they aren't giving people something to do.

And how you do that is: you talk about obedience. You boil things down to obedience. You tease out the obedience message, you give it special attention, you make it your theme. Maybe then you'll get plent of volunteers for the church-cleaning duty, the Sunday school duty, the ushering duty and the money-counting duty and the communion-serving duty, etc.

As a long time Christian I've heard a lot of preaching, listened to a lot of Christian teachers on the radio, included a lot more on my RSS feed and Twitter feed, etc. And I'm amazed at how much teaching there is about the things we should do, over and over and over again, advice and counsel and encouragement to keep doing, with only a nod from time to time to the supreme position that love has in the New Testament message.

Me, I think we live in a world where people need to know that God loves them, or to put it another way, to know (experience) the love that God has for them. This is good news, and within that good news comes the truth about the cross, but you know it starts with the love of God in the depths of time. And not only that, but story ends with God's loving purpose for his creation fulfilled.

In the meantime, his children, ministers of reconciliation, preaching peace and living peace and demonstrably loving others because He first loved us and gifted with the Holy Spirit which is also the Spirit of love, without which we are nothing but a clanging out-of-tune cymbal.

To tell you the truth, I'm tired of anything less than this: a so-called gospel that is nothing more than the doctrine of justification is not adequate to describe what God is ultimately about. That's why Jesus began with a message about the Kingdom, which is the context of everything else. I suggest that "obedience" i not an adequate word to describe what life will be like in that Kingdom, but "love" most certainly comes close.

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