Friday, April 5, 2013

The Voice Under All Silences

Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star… – ee cummings

In the end, love is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate gift.  Jesus proved that.  Some of us continue to prove it, albeit to a lesser degree.  And some are still afraid of it.

It's interesting that, in the last 48 hours or so, many of the spiritual graphics, blog posts, some of my Scripture readings, etc., have been related to love in some way.  I don't think any of us go without thinking about love at some point.  But, do we understand it?  Real love?  Even the Bible says we really don't.

1 John 4:19 (KJV)  We love him, because he first loved us. 

That's not a process we started.  We had to be nudged into it by God's love.  We might, by sheer coincidence, do something we don't understand.  To quote Dr. Seuss, "We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.".

The fact is, we have no clue what love is.  Remember that first date?  It doesn't matter whether we're male or female.  We were fearful of making the wrong impression, because we wanted results that would be nice for us.  There are enough adults who never outgrew that, that it seems like they got older without getting wiser.  Sometimes, we even think that when we look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning.

John 3:16 (KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

The Greek word for "world" is kosmos.  It speaks of all of what God created, not some special preselected group.  And there's an additional thing about that word.  It's also kosmos that describes the world when the Bible tells us the world is corrupted and will try to corrupt us.  But God still loves it.  That part that needs saving is going to be given that chance until salvation has happened or they've been given every opportunity and still rejected God's love.

The Greek word pas is translated as whosoever.  It could also be translated as all, anyone, everyone, any, etc.  Unlike our capacity, God's love is all inclusive.  Yet, we're willing to tell people they need to perform or God won't love them.  Or we get in discussions that end up having us point fingers.  

The people who are strong on obedience say the grace oriented believers are evil because they mislead people into thinking they can be saved and still sin.  The grace folks get angry at the legalists because grace says we can't perform, we need God's help to be obedient.  And they blame the legalists for supposedly convincing people their righteousness is based on their performance, which would be flesh.  Does any of that seem anything like any of the forms of love described in the Bible?

When I think of that, I sometimes want to weep.  Especially when I consider some of the "evangelism" tactics used.  I don't know about any other Christians, but I had more than my fair share of people approach me to scare me into accepting salvation by telling me I was going to Hell, but neglecting to let me know how much God loved me.  It doesn't matter whether you believe in eternal security or not, looking at my behavior in one period of my life, either view would have been convinced that my behavior was aiming me straight at Hell's gate.  And there were lots of folks trying to change my direction.

I said the sinner's prayer multiple times, mostly to shut up those who only focused on my going to Hell.  Fortunately, I met some people willing to share God's love with me.  Even in the days of my worst behavior and in my studies of psychology, I was never convinced that avoidance therapy was anything more than a temporary solution that could only, ultimately fail.  I knew that shocking the mouse in the maze never got the mouse to think that the cheese needed to be avoided, only a certain path to the cheese.  So he was already seeking an alternative route to his reward.  Given enough time after the last shock and it would be forgotten.  But give the mouse something it recognized as better than cheese and it would skip the cheese every time.

We don't really understand love.  Think about Jesus on the Cross and He says, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do.".  Christ wasn't just referring to those who physically tortured Him or placed Him on the Cross.  Remember that He was on that Cross for all our sins and sin.  Sins of commission and of omission.  Sin of attitude and intent and sin of ignorance.  The sins of our past, present, and future.  The sins of the Roman soldier at the crucifixion and the sins we're going commit tomorrow.

When Jesus said that He fulfilled the law, He wasn't talking about Himself performing rituals for things like Passover or the sabbath.  The Old Testament laws were valid and they required punishment for transgressions.  But they also included cities of refuge and the scapegoat.  Jesus is that refuge and that scapegoat.  His journey to the Cross fulfilled the punishment that was due us. And His love was so great that, despite the horror of all He would go through, Christ continued on -- a love so selfless that it was more concerned with us than with His own trials.  It was a love that pushed beyond any fears in the garden of Gethsemane, a love that overcame the force of sin, a love that was as immediate as the needs of the apostles and as far reaching as giving us a chance at eternal salvation.  It's the love that's the voice under all silences.

What are we doing, today, to share that love with both saint and sinner?  With the brethren and the heathen?

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