Welcome to the seventh blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture. Today, we take a look at the most excellent way, love..
This post continues from the last entry, “The Commands of Jesus.” This point carries such weight, it bears some further searching. We start off with a series of verses.
John 13.34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Mat 22.36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
1 Cor 13.1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Through the New Testament, readers will find a strong theme of love. When faced with challenges regarding the law, Jesus responded with love. When confronted with the weight of sin, Jesus responded with love and went to the cross. When writing about the most excellent way, Paul wrote about love. Today, in modern Christian evangelicalism, however, we find that the focus has shifted from love, to ‘truth.’
Teachers spend inordinate amounts of time and effort combing the scriptures for ‘secret truths,’ and spend decades attempting to teach them to their followers. In a typical church, a leader may take months or years going through ‘all of the truths’ found in just one book of the Bible. These lessons are the center of the church experience.
I do not propose that we should not study God’s word, or seek out His truth. Jesus said that His followers worship Him in spirit and in truth. However, emphasis on the wrong thing may have fatal results. The Pharisees attempted to validate themselves through the letter of the law, and their righteous actions, and Jesus embarrassed them on both accounts.
Now, in discussing this verbally, I often find myself cut off by the other person in the conversation around this point. “If it’s all about love, then you throw truth out the window, Phil! You try to find God through your emotions and experience alone! That just leads to ecumenicalism! It’s heretical!” And, at that point, I sigh.
It is true that love without any truth just does not work. Timothy Keller says, ““Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws.” However, Paul makes it clear that truth without love is useless. You need both… but I do not believe they are of equal weight. The Bible makes it clear that in all things, we should love. 1 Peter 4.8 states, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” We can have some wrong theology, and even be in sin, but if we stay in love, we please God. This should not surprise us. People like Abraham, Moses and David had their shares of sin, yet pleased God through their faith and love to Him. Paul wrote, “What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Note, that it wasn’t his righteous living, or correct theology, but faith in God that earned Him God’s favor.
We spend all kinds of time in churches (and other venues) learning about various theologies which may, or may not, be correct. Yet, how much of our time, by comparison, do we spend showing God’s love to those around us? Let us work to insure that we are giving proper measure to that which Jesus clearly commanded us to do.
This small, yet very significant shift in focus leads to all kinds of implications in our Christian walk. Over the next few shows, I will touch the surface of a number of these starting with our next entry about the subjective Christian life!