Lesson 19: Christian Love (part 2)

God is LoveWhen I first tried to summarize the chapter on love last week, I wrote, “The seventh chapter of the book maintains that Christianity is all about love overcoming the violence of this world and that everything else is commentary.” I stewed about that for some time and finally changed “love” to “God’s love.” It better expresses the Gospel our present society needs to hear.

Large numbers of us think proclamations of love cannot be trusted. Too many egomaniacs promise anything to get what they want in our toxic social life. Too few lovers combat the danger threatening us from terrorism in a nuclear world. Hope in this culture of fear must spring from faith that divine love works with us to overcome this world’s violence.

That is exactly what Christianity promises in I John 2: 7-11, 3:11-17, and 4: 7-21, perhaps our best summary of love. It maintains everything must proceed from the extraordinary statement “God is love.” It then consistently intertwines the love of God with loving our brothers and sisters, insisting there is not one without the other.

It quickly becomes apparent that this kind of love is not a vapid feeling or an empty tolerance of all things. It is defined as being willing to share your possessions with those in need and even being willing to give your life for your brothers and sisters. Believers are reminded Jesus, the perfect model, was executed by his violent society for unconditionally teaching and practicing this love. So, too, we might be hated if we love this way.

Nonetheless, John promises this kind of love will save the world. Indeed, he claims the light is already shining that will eventually heal the world’s blindness and draw all people into this love affair. God’s love is restoring life to this world that is constantly threatened by death. This divine love has already overcome our fear, granting us the courage to work with God in overcoming violence.

This is our basic message. Christian faith is trust in God’s love; Christian hope is belief that God’s love will endure. Obviously there is room for a whole lot of commentary as we apply the message to the particulars of our current situation. John himself engages in this when he speaks about the false prophets in his community. However, our commentary cannot deviate from this understanding of love. We might expand it to include the earth and lifestyles that were formerly unmentioned, but we cannot reduce or modify it. God is love. Everything else is commentary.

Many report they are leaving the Church, because they no longer hear that basic message there. Instead they find mean-spirited judgment that condemns certain people and practices. Some of this results from pastors having difficulty developing a commentary that understands the Gospel of love in the context of a technological society. I’ll try in the next few weeks to offer some insights that might help.

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