Friday, July 08, 2005

How Do We Love Everybody?

"Love Everybody" is what the sign said as it was being held by some rock-country musician at the 4th of July celebration in Boston. With the Pops behind him and the people in front of him, he had one message, "Love Everybody." A commendable message, don't you think? Of course, he didn't give any clues on how one is supposed to go about loving everybody. I guess he figured we don't need any help, we just need to love. I guess he banked on the power of his appeal and the love that lay hidden in every human heart. That doesn't cut it for me. I know my own heart, how un-loving, how selfish and self-absorbed it can be.

It's almost impossible to read through 1 John and not wonder what love is, how manifest it is in your own life and how you convey it to others. However, those questions start at the wrong place; they start with me, which is the problem (and what I find unlovable about others). If "all we need is love," then why is the world filled with so much hate, or worse, indifference? Seven bombs and several hundred injured in London, thirty thousand Africans dying a day from poverty-related, preventable diseases, child conscription for Burmese warfare and on and I care? Do I love? Are these the kind of questions should I be asking when I read the Scripture, "Love Everybody"? (1 Jn 3.11, 23; 4.7, 11, 12)

How about asking, Who is love? After all, love isn't a thing, an emotion; it's person-al. Trees don't love, people do. So maybe we should ask what person best embodies love. Who is love? God is. Who is God? Jesus is. Who is Jesus? The most precious person in the cosmos to God, his Father. Why did he die? Because God is love. Why did he resurrect? Because the Spirit is love. Who is the Spirit? Love.

St. Augustine put it together like this: Lover, Beloved, Love = Father, Son and Spirit. A trinitarian love triangle, which is where love begins and ends. We just need to get caught up in it. But how? No one has ever seen God!

John tells it this way. No one has seen God but if we love one another we abide in God and his love is perfected among us. How do we get close enough to abiding in Someone we have never seen? We receive his love. After all, he loved us first by giving up what was most precious for those who were most perverse. How do we know if we are abiding in God and not some figment of our imagination? We receive his Spirit, who enables us to love others. What does loving others look like? Telling them about the Beloved, the Lover and Love. Confess that Jesus has been eternally loved by the Father through the Spirit and that if we renounce our two cent notions of love, we can enter the love triangle and love everybody.

What are some ways we can love? Receive and rejoice in God's love for us. Pursue righteousness (3.10). Give away our goods to those in need (3.17). Love our enemies and our friends. Lay down our own lives for our brothers (3.16).

Read =

Listen to God. Wash the dishes. Give your good shoes to Goodwill. Pray for terrorists. Take a day off of work to help a brother move. Tell someone about Love.

These are not random acts of kindness; they are purposeful acts of love.


At 11:30 PM , Blogger Geoff said...

The question of how to love certainly and rightfully screams for our attention. No doubt the Triune God is where we see Love, in person and action. But I'm struck and confused a bit when I see tremendous, redemptive love in those who don't know Jesus.

It's hard to witness transformative love in someone who confesses dependence on only an undefined general 'god.' Where is the source of their strength and change? I think, in America especially, when someone's "spirituality" has changed them so dramatically, we secretly think of the God's salvific action occuring in their lives, even though they make no profession. But the truth is probably that the Father's common grace allows such deep and powerful love in the deist (or the Muslim, the hindu, etc..?). Is it an admonition to the church? A challenge? A partner? A deception?

I know that the Triune God is bigger, much bigger, than my mind can imagine and his works are mysterious - do I shield myself from seeing his work under the "protection" of doctrine that I can't fully understand?

At 9:28 AM , Blogger Jonathan Dodson said...

Good and relevant difficult questions.

My best thoughts on the matter come from Abraham Kuyper. In short, yes, common grace is actively expressed through reconciled marriages, firemen rescuing lives, a mother's forgivness to her daughter's murderer. However, "common grace" is likely not the best term for understanding these so-called 'redemptive acts.' Kuyper, the coiner of "common grace" and "special grace" wrote that these terms are better tied respectively to the biblical concepts of creation and redemption.

Accordingly, the Spirit is the primary agent in current acts of creation; as Gregory put it, he is the perfecting cause of creation. Thus, it is the Spirit that accomplishes reconcilled marriages, etc. of unbelievers. His work glorifies the Father but does not sanctify the recipients, since they have rejected God.

Kuyper pointed out that there are two dimensions to "common grace" - internal and external. The external operations of the Spirit allow for human flourishing and civilization, restraining evil in teh world. The internal operations are those that we would deem "moral" or "Chrisitan." As the end of history draws near, the internal operations fo the Spirit will decline, leaving a "heartless Bablyon" for destruction.

I like your questions about the purpose of the internal acts of the Spirit. Of course, they glorify God as they are consonant with his character, distributing grace, mercy and justice wherever he pleases. Thats probably a good place to start. We aer meant to marvel at teh Spirit and the mercy of God, who does not allow the depraved to act depraved, to be consumed with the evil of their hearts. In that respect, it is exemplary. Shouldnt we extend the same kind of grace to others, regenerate or unregenerate.

At 2:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot!
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