Love, the Doctrinal Necessity

Love, the Doctrinal Necessity

Note on love below, but first:
– Please consider someone you might NOMINATE for elder or deacon
– Sign-up with Rhonda Langdon for a SUPPER GROUP (I’m hosting and will serve my customary fricasseed frog)
– And please join us Sunday evening for a presentation and prayer covering the medical mission SCALPEL AT THE CROSS — Nancy Cole, co-founder with her husband Dr. Peter Cole, will be with us. This is better than YouTube. Join us.

Having been trained to think analytically, then finding, in my 20s, the intellectual coherence and satisfaction of the Reformed tradition, I was slow to recognize how love, and therefore grace, dominate all other themes in Scripture. Part of the problem for me was the liberal/fundamentalist divide of the 20th century, in which Fundys were (supposedly) about right doctrine, and liberals were (supposedly) about love. This led to a period in which a certain kind of doctrinal conservative tended to look suspiciously at love and all things tender, gentle and kind. For me, the change began when I realized that love was not only right doctrine, but the crown jewel of right doctrine.

Love is the fundamental character-trait of the Trinity (1 Jn 4:16). It is therefore at the center of union with God and knowing God (Eph 3:17-19, 5:1-2). And it is the one true motive in all behavior which flows from knowing God (1 Cor 16:14). All our hope, in this life and the next, is bound up in the truth that God loves us (Deut 7:7-8, Rom 8:31-39).

Jonathan Edwards, reflecting on 1 Cor 13 (the famous “if I have not love I am nothing” passage), said: “This surely implies that love is the great thing, and that everything which has not this contained or implied in it, is nothing. It also signifies that this is the life and soul of all religion, without which other things that bear the name of motives are empty and vain.”

Among many other things, what I’m saying means this: you must open your heart. Yes, it’s a risk. Nevertheless, you must open your heart first of all to God, believing his love to be both real and for you personally. Pray Eph 3:19 daily. The more you know the love that is beyond knowledge (by which Paul means it transcends mere information), the more surprised you will be by your own joy and growth in Christ. Rather than a faith of human ideas driving human effort (leaving you tired and bitter), you will be renewed day by day.

Secondly, you must give the love you have received. But there’s a necessary hierarchy here, found in 2 Cor 8:5, “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” No community in Christ is healthy until its members love God above all other people and things. But after that, our love for one another ought to be as effusive and abandoned as Jesus’ love for us, in which he counted others more significant than himself, took the form of a servant, and died on a cross.

It was in watching Christians love each other that God first began to speak to me. I had not seen that love in my family, and certainly didn’t have it with the guys I hung out with. If you know God’s love for you, don’t wait around for others in the body to start treating you a certain way — just pour out your love for them. Will you be loved in return? It doesn’t matter. God’s love for you is your “refuge and strength.” Trust him and love as you have been loved. You will find him faithful.