Wednesday, November 21, 2012

LOVE DEFINED – Part Two

Our culture defines love erroneously. We generally think of it in terms of an emotion or simply an act of kindness. While love might involve one or the other (or both), both fall short of the biblical definition. While Scripture clearly states that God is love, the apostle Paul also states in Romans 11:22, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off."  Love is the purpose and pursuit of the highest possible good, all things considered.  It requires wisdom to discern what measure of kindness or severity is appropriate to arrive at the highest possible good.  We can see, therefore, that love might involve acts of kindness but it also might involve various expressions of severity, both of which could produce a wide range of emotions.

The context of Romans 11 involves cutting off those who do not have faith (Jew or Gentile) and embracing those who do have faith (Jew or Gentile).  Both cutting off and embracing are acts of love and both will produce considerably different emotions.

It is critical to involve both kindness and severity in our concepts of love, lest we simply dismiss the actions of God revealed in the Bible that we commonly have difficulty reconciling...with a more shallow view of love. The Old Testament Scriptures reveal that God implemented extreme measures in His effort to pursue the highest possible good. We must not simply dismiss such revelation.  God has revealed to us incredible insights into His nature and character, including his love.  We must allow such revelation to define our idea of love, not dismiss passages that do not fit our presuppositions about love.  In the same way that we talk about the loving kindness of God, we must be aware of the loving severity of God.  Love involves doing what is appropriate, no matter how difficult, to arrive at the highest possible good.

It is common for people to struggle with the severe acts of God as revealed in the Old Testament because of a deficient concept of love. In the same way that a surgeon might have to amputate a cancerous leg in order to save the rest of the body, God has, on occasion, cut off those who were cancerous (i.e. wicked).  The greatest act of love ever expressed is in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the atonement, we see the greatest manifestation of kindness and severity imaginable.

Eph 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (NAS)

Friday, November 09, 2012

OBSERVATION

In hearing and reading comments and observing responses from the Christian community to recent political activities, I write the following. It seems that the task of dealing with the “both / and” issue (in comparison with the “either / or” issue) is very important. Simply put, we need not pit preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ against being good stewards and having active involvement in the realm of government (or education, business, etc.). The tendency to dismiss the need to and importance of giving wise and responsible attention to the affairs of national and international governance is often portrayed as a more spiritual approach to life on earth. This is largely the fruit of an unhealthy and inappropriate secular / sacred dichotomy. The assumption is that our current, earthly existence is of no importance in comparison to our future spiritual destiny.

I would suggest that such an assumption and its ensuing approach falls short of the full reality that God is Creator of heaven and earth and, having been created in His image, He gave the human race (of which Christians are a part) a cultural mandate to rule over all the earth. A well balanced, holistic perspective and approach is our goal. Many seemingly pious remarks intend to communicate that it really doesn’t matter how things pan out in such earthly affairs because God’s kingdom is not of this world, etc. There are others who quickly allude to the assumption that everything happens according to God’s plan. Here’s where caution and balance must be sought. The fact that God’s kingdom is not dependent upon or ushered in through political movements does not mean that such affairs are of no importance. Neither does it mean that such affairs have no influence or impact on how, when and where the gospel is preached or how quickly the church manages to preach the gospel of the kingdom in every nation as a testimony (after which the end will come – Mt 24:14). Therefore, a dismissive or piously passive attitude regarding the unfolding of such events is not to be seen as the height of great faith.

Finding a fruitful “both / and” approach in which we are not distraught to the point of incapacity or passively pious to the point of inactivity is our goal. We have not been taken out of this world (we are in this world) and our involvement and influence must be seen as significant and even necessary. At the same time, we are not to be controlled by the principles of the ungodly (we are not of this world). We must, instead of being dismissive in our attitude, be involved in destroying speculation that is being raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5)  wherever this is being accomplished; philosophies of government, education, economics, family life, child training, etc. Our commission is to disciple nations, teaching them to observe (obey and honor) God’s principles and truths for fruitful human living, individually and corporately.

In a future article, I plan to address a similar confusion regarding the relationship between God’s active involvement and man’s active involvement in the unfolding of human history. Again, it is not all one or all the other.