God’s cross-shaped love

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4

In our culture, today, we celebrate romantic love in Valentine’s Day, and surely we do well to do so (see Song of Songs). C. S. Lewis’s great book, The Four Loves, comes to mind as well.

In the very passage quoted above from 1 John 4, we read more than once that “God is love.” The God who is love shows to us and to the world a cross-shaped love, that is, the love of the Cross. In Jesus, God’s Son, is the ultimate expression of love. God took upon God’s Self all of our evil, all of our sin, and in love laid down his life for us, yes, for the world.

We receive that love so as to enjoy it, live in it, and from that actually be a manifestation of that love of God in Christ to the world. It is not us, but Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20) who enables us so to live, but mysteriously this becomes (or can and should become) a part and at the heart of who we are. As Paul said, he wanted to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and participation in his sufferings, even becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3). Christ’s love compelled him in his mission and life (2 Corinthians 5).

We want to enjoy every aspect of what love is, of course not outside of what God commands. But above all, our focus is on the Love of all loves, found in God, and on the Cross, in which love is given its supreme and final expression in this world. The love of God to bring us into no less than the life and love of the Trinity. In and through Jesus.

truth will prevail

If truth does prevail, then what about God’s judgment? Of course we do well to shudder (Romans 2 and 3), since we indeed are all sinners. But without God’s judgment, how will justice, and yes, truth prevail? That is part of God’s atoning work in Christ, to take the judgment of sin upon himself in his death. So that all can be forgiven and given new life, justified in the sense of given status in God’s covenant family and thus made right, and reconciled to God and to each other in Christ. The final judgment is the purging of evil from the world to bring in the final and full salvation.

In the meantime we often find in this present life untruth and evil having a heyday. Untruth and evil do seem to go together against truth and goodness. It seems like the universe is wired, or at least ought to be wired for truth and goodness. Without a doubt we’re all in need of God’s grace in Jesus. If truth prevails, again, we’re all in trouble, since we have been and can be full of falsehood and the evil that accompanies that. And again, a big part of the good news in Jesus is that God took that evil upon himself on the cross in the Person of his Son, Jesus. The result of that is that by faith we’re forgiven, and given a passion for truth in the Truth himself, Jesus.

We have a passion for truth, while at the same time always and forever, along with the rest of the world being in great need of nothing less than the Truth himself. In the Truth, truth will prevail even here and now in the grace of God in that Truth himself. And we find out again and again that God does not condemn us in Jesus, but in and by Jesus- the Truth, God helps us to look for and see, even if seemingly only by faith, a better day, the day when all truth prevails, and to experience a true measure of that even in this present evil age when truth seems irrelevant to so many, and all but lost.

And so that is where we in Jesus hang our hats, not in a supposed progressive order in which the world is getting better and better on its own. But only in Jesus, the Truth himself, which should and can give us heart in the promise of God for the future beginning even in the present- in the here and now, in and through Jesus.

love is not enough

This post from a professor and scholar in Ireland, Patrick Mitchell, on a book entitled: Love: a History, by Simon May, along with the post’s apt title, “The idolisation of love,” looks promising. This reminds me of the Beatles song with typically great music and empty lyrics, All You Need is Love. Love per se (by itself) is not enough.

Yes, “God is love,” as seen in 1 John 4. But the context itself gives the lie to the statement that love is enough, or even that love is the gospel. Compare what is meant by that, with the picture as given in scripture:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

And this, from 2 John:

The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Read 1, 2 and 3 John, those three letters (not long) for a more contextual and fuller picture.

And to help make sure there’s no mistake as to what’s meant here, Romans 13:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

While there is overlap in the love of God, and the love we see in creation, according to scripture that’s not enough. We need the new creation love in Jesus and the gospel, which is to heal and put together the brokenness of the old creation, which for all it’s devotion to love, fails to worship the One-in-Three, or Three-in-One, the One who is love.

The true love is a gospel love, no less, grounded in the crucified, risen Jesus, and in the truth which includes absolutes such as “Thou shalt not kill.” It is not enough to think that love is all we need, or that love is the gospel. We turn to the one God as revealed through scripture, and in actual events, in Jesus. We find the one true, lasting love there, from which all other loves come, and are judged.

 

accepting one’s guilt (to receive forgiveness)

Without airing one’s guilty laundry, which is hardly ever appropriate, and if done should be done with much care looking for the needed wisdom with prayer, one ought to accept the fact that they are guilty when such is the case, and forget about trying to smooth the way so as to lessen or avoid consequences. That can be easier said then done since people often are not merciful. Of all people on earth, Christians or followers of Christ should be merciful. We do know that our heavenly Father is merciful, which is evident in and through the revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ.

The cross is our pardon in and through Jesus, upon our repentance and faith. Mediated to us through Christ and even through Christ’s body, the church. Jesus’ death is for the forgiveness of our sins; in that death atonement for our sins and for the sins of the world was made. So our forgiveness is grounded in a salvation that is in Jesus himself through his Person as the God-Human, and his saving work for us. And so our sins can be forgiven as we confess them; God being faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

There is only one way we can receive forgiveness from our guilt. We need to accept our sin for what it is. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we air it for all to see, or allow it to beat us down. Instead we accept the fact of our guilt as well as accepting God’s forgivness through confession to God and when appropriate to each other, especially to one we sinned against. As we look forward to the day when all sin will be gone forever and true righteousness and justice will reign in the love of God through King Jesus.

meditation for the eighth day of Christmas: the significance of the name Jesus given to him on his eighth day

Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.” (NIV footnote) This was the name given to him on his eighth day when he was circumcised in obedience to the Lord’s word through the angels who appeared to Mary and Joseph. He would both save his people from their sins, and would also be the Savior, even the sin bearer for the world. A salvation which extends to all of life.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

“if anyone sins”

We do sin. There’s truth in Luther’s statement that those in Christ are simultaneously both sinners and saints all at the same time even though like probably so many things with Luther (certainly he is a gift to the entire church) arguably he (and I would say this) carries this too far. But we don’t arrive in this life to sinless perfection which must mean we not only sin but are still sinners. Do we actually love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? And do we actually love our neighbors as ourselves? No. Although I believe God’s provision of grace in Jesus not only forgives us of our sins, but cleanses us from all unrighteousness and helps us grow toward more and more conformity to the likeness of Jesus in this life, at least that is possible from what I read in scripture. So that we should be actually loving God more and more and be loving our neighbor more and more as we love ourselves.

Sometimes our sins are grievous, we go off the edge in this way or that. Hopefully in no major, life-changing way, though that does happen as well. We should never despair. God’s forgiveness is always present and available to us through Jesus. All we need to do is frankly admit and acknowledge our sin, making a thorough confession of it to God. And perhaps to our pastor, priest, or trusted friend as well, in fact that has an important even if neglected place in church life. And where need be to those we’ve sinned directly against. God’s forgiveness is found in and through Jesus and in fellowship with his church, an ongoing reality and need we have in this present life.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

judging others

There seems to be a strong tendency among Christians to not take seriously the calling of God to be holy and to resist sin. I’m not talking about Christians who regularly complain about their sins, but are repentant. Perhaps in some ways we should all fit into that category, even if we must be careful, since excusing our sin may be the near fatal next step and comes all too easily. I am referring to those who simply do excuse their sin. “I am a sinner.” “Everyone does it.”

Judging others and grumbling seem among the pet sins of Christians. Thankfully I’m not talking across the board, as many do not seem taken up with these vices. And yet in some ways these vices can afflict us all, not only as recipients, but also, alas, as those who fall prey to them. It is all too easy to grumble and even easier to judge others. I am not talking about seeing the wrong in others, but seeing them as outcasts because of that wrong. We indeed are all sinners in need of the grace available in and through Jesus.

In love we need to learn to look past the judgment another might have of us and pray for them. Also realizing that to some degree we’re inflicted with the same sickness in sometimes judging others. Remembering that Jesus indeed was condemned for both them and ourselves. So that our goal can never be the judgment of those who have judged us, but through the cross, the reconciliation in the love of God of us all, even of the entire world in and through Jesus.