the love that wins

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message*)

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s latest book. I don’t wish to continue that conversation today on this post, but simply to reflect on what it means from scripture when we say that love wins.

The love that wins in the end is God’s love for the world through Christ and by the Spirit. We know this love through the Incarnation, ministry and saving work of God’s Son who as Messiah fulfilled all that the Bible points to especially through God’s covenant with Israel. That love breaks through into our lives, and into the world today by grace and through faith. We begin to see and experience for ourselves this great love of God in Jesus our Lord, as we in Jesus learn and grow so that we follow Jesus more and more completely.

Love wins because it is God’s love, a love that will not let the world go, but comes to save the world. That is where our hope lies. Never in ourselves, nor in any entity of this world, nor in any mere human. Not that God doesn’t use such, but in the end none can fulfill and bring in the shalom which God promises in the new creation in Jesus.

I’m glad it doesn’t depend on us. And yet we need to have faith, indeed we can pray for the gift of faith. And in the down and dirty nitty gritty of life we hopefully come to that place where we call out to God for his salvation and regularly do so. That salvation comes in God’s terms, not ours. Hopefully those are the terms we more and more want to live by. And it comes by God’s grace with love.

We never arrive in this life, so we have to keep coming back to this Salvation over and over again. We do well by this grace to hold on to the new ground God gives us. Always in terms of the first and greatest commandment and the second like it, the “Jesus Creed”: to love God with all our being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love above all is relational. It resides ultimately for us in a person, Jesus. God by the Spirit does his saving work always through Jesus. There indeed is no other name under heaven given to us by which we are saved. There is no end to the depths of this relationship and the love we find in that in Christ. And we are meant to experience that love together as his people. Not just separately to ourselves. It is relational and therefore dynamic vertically and horizontally in our relations to God and to others.

I like to repeat the “Jesus Creed” over and over during the course of a day. Along with the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, the examen at the end of Psalm 139, and maybe a passage that comes to mind. This helps me remain grounded in an active and indeed interactive way in my life. There are always each day some down times, as well as up times, struggles we have to go through along with sins we need to confess to God. But our hope in God through Jesus is that through all of life in the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, the way of death and resurrection that love indeed wins! That love wins in the end when God’s salvation is completed in the new creation in Jesus.

How all of this works out in terms of heaven and hell, we can go only on what scripture says. And try to major on what is clear and hold with less certainty our own understanding of it. Though we need to continue to work on that understanding always in terms of the text of scripture, with reference to tradition along with reason and experience, to be sure. But majoring on the text itself not just by ourselves, but along with others.

We all need this love from God by the Spirit and through each other. And the world needs this love of God  which primarily comes to the world through us. Through us as Christ’s Body living out his love, knowing that indeed that love will win. Let us be a part of that today and everyday until the end.

*The Message is a rendering of scripture by Eugene H. Peterson.

(late change in title from “love wins” to “the love that wins”)

humility is a gift

Christian humility is unique, and is nothing less than a gift through Jesus. Always and forever in our lives it is pure gift.

Sometimes through circumstances people humble themselves and change in ways that on a human plane are for the better. Or someone will be overcome with guilt, even as Judas Iscariot was, and will do something rash, not good. In both of these cases we don’t see the humility to which God calls his people in Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who could say, “I am humble in heart.” At least with the kind of humility which is to characterize the new humanity in Jesus. Therefore this humility is sheer gift always from God through Jesus.

Sometimes pride will rear up its ugly head in our lives, and we become aware of it. And we want to fight it off. This is where we need to humble ourselves, but the difference being that we humble ourselves before God. With the promise that when we do, he will lift us up. But it must be his lifting, and that lifting will be accompanied with this gift of humility in and through Jesus.

Something I have found helpful when struggling to really humble myself before God is praying over and over again what is called the “Jesus Prayer“:

Lord Jesus, Son of God. Have mercy on me a sinner.

One can breathe in and out as they say this prayer, and I say it to the point where it brutalizes me, so to speak. Because it takes that practice and length of it, to finally get through my hard, stubborn heart. And help me see the real me through God’s grace. And through God’s grace have a truly meek and repentant heart.

Something that I think sets us up to be aware of our sin is the reciting over and over again, like the Israelites do with the Shema, what has aptly been called “the Jesus Creed”:

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12

We are weak in this life, and we need practices like this to help get us “centered” again and again. We can almost mark it down that we will tend always to be going off center. As the hymn goes: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” And again and again during the course of a day, or at least during part of it, I like to recite “the Lord’s prayer.”

Let us not imagine at any time that we are humble. Again that humility resides only in Jesus, and is always a gift from God through him.  By the Spirit may we learn to live and walk in this humility in Jesus more and more. Together in love and service in Jesus for the world.