Love is Enough
One of the things I haven’t written as much about on here is progressive Christianity, mostly because I tend to have a lot of those conversations in another setting and by the time I get here, I’ve already said what I wanted to say about it. This post, however, isn’t so much written by me, but is the visceral response I had to the sermon I heard this morning.
Without pointing the finger directly at my pew, this morning’s sermon pretty much called me and my fellow progressive Christians false prophets. According to the preacher, all these sermons about God’s love and loving others are errant because it makes people think that it’s all about love. By preaching about love all the time, be it God’s love or the command to love, we’re missing out on the “narrow gate” that leads to life (he was referencing Matthew 7:13-14). He said that love is not enough to communicate the gospel, and when we get to judgment, we’ll be unknown to God (Matthew 7:21-23). Love is not enough to bring about repentance, and for that, the love-oriented preachers are going to find themselves in Hell.
Love is enough.
Love is what the gospel IS.
Love is what is going to draw people to Christians. It’s the light, the salt, the very thing that is supposed to identify and distinguish us. It’s the most important thing that Jesus was trying to get through our thick heads:
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
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.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40, NASB)
Love is why God offers salvation. Just about anyone can recite John 3:16, and let’s take a look at the first clause of the verse: For God so loved the world… God LOVED. It doesn’t say For God so judged the world, or For God found the world so detestable, or For God was so superior to the world… It says God LOVED the world enough to offer salvation. God could have judged in that moment, certainly could have found detestable things happening, and is without question superior, but what motivated God is LOVE.
The world had had generation after generation of priests trying to convict and intimidate people into being Godly, and how well was that working out? Not well at all. So because God loved people, God switched things up.
Where on earth do people get the idea that we, as the church, as ministers, as believers, think that we can do any better than God?
The argument from my conservative counterparts is that if we keep preaching about love, people won’t ever seek forgiveness and live holier lives, but with all the love in my heart, I have to say that they just don’t get it. Love is why God wants us in the first place. We are drawn to God because of love, because God is love. And then really cool things happen: we want to read scripture, we want to spend time with God, we are convicted by the holy spirit, we want to live lives that honor God because the love becomes a two-way street, and that spills over into loving others. Love is the thing that makes all the good stuff possible.
Love is enough of a command for me to take on.
Loving God is a full-time commitment, choosing over and over to set aside my pride, my big ideas, my “wisdom” in exchange for faithfulness. It means my time, my mind, my heart, my actions spent trying to figure out how to honor God. It means repenting when I realized I’ve failed at that (something that happens more often than I like to think about).
It’s the biggest, toughest, craziest thing you can do, loving someone. It’s enough to make you do things you’d never have considered doing, demands that you think of yourself second, requires vulnerability, inspires invincibility and daring chances. Love keeps you going when you’re dead broke, when your boss is a jerk, when the kid just puked all over your new shoes. Love takes me out of my own worries to listen to the broken heart of the woman crying through Sunday School, makes me forget my new, clean shirt when the kids smudge it up with sticky fingers, and made me cry with joy when a small act of love turns into a life-changing encounter for a stranger.
I promise you, if you endeavor to love God and love others and by dinner time, you feel like you’ve fully satisfied those commands and have leftover time and energy, you’re missing something. If you reach the point where you completely understand God’s love, and have returned it in full measure, and then shared that same measure of love with everyone you’ve come into contact with, and you are still twitching with the need to sort through who is and isn’t known by God, you’re missing something.
Love is enough to keep you busy.
I could go on, but I can’t say it any better than my favorite epistle:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his son to be the savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21, NIV)
Posted on November 2, 2014, in Church, Ministry, Woman Preacher and tagged Christian, Christianity, church, Commandment, God, God is love, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Love, minister, Preaching, Progressive, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.