Monday, October 25, 2010

Condemned by Love

As I’m taking my class through Zechariah, I have been faced more and more with the overemphasis of love in the law and character of God. Check out this amazing verse,

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." – Zechariah 7:9-10
This is reiterated throughout the Bible (Isaiah 58:3-11, Micah 6:6-8, Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, James 1:27, Joshua 22:5, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Matthew 25:31-46, etc), that love in action is the foundation of the law and what God desires. He is not looking for mindless obedience, but understanding and outward focused effort. If I have not convinced you yet that God’s law and character is emphasized in love, let me then let Paul give the most convincing argument,
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." – Galatians 5:14
Think about this for a moment, how can the commandments be fulfilled in love? If you love someone, you won’t break the sixth commandment by murdering them. If you love them, you won’t steal from them (8th), you won’t lie to them (9th (we can argue discretion later)), you won’t use their name as a curse word (3rd), you won’t forsake them for another (7th), and you won’t seek to supplement their love and gifts with those from another (2nd and 10th). Consider some other laws, like the law forbidding misguiding a blind person, obviously love seeks to set all on the right path. Or laws requiring death for false teachers and necromancers? Romans 12:9 says that true love is hating wickedness, therefore tolerating sin is not love. Tolerance is the antithesis of love because it denies the importance of the truth and the benefit of following righteousness.

We know that those whom God loves, he reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19). Indeed, the parents who will not discipline their child to right action and belief are not loving their child, but are hating their child (Proverbs 13:24). For to paraphrase a famous atheist, how much do you have to hate someone to know the right way and not implore those on the wrong way to turn to the right? To this effect we read that he is cursed who misleads a blind man (Deuteronomy 27:18).

Recently I have been exhorted by my open-air patrons to be more loving and preach more on God’s love. So much so that one young lady made a sign which said, “GOD LOVES EVERYBODY!” Beloved, are we so ignorant of God’s love to think that because God is love we are not to fear him? I spoke to a young man named Charles recently who felt he was “straight” with God because Charles had loved the world and everyone in the world. I asked him if he had ever lied, and he said he had, I asked if he was loving the person he lied to. Charles responded, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever stolen anything, and he said, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever looked at a girl inappropriately, then quoted Jesus where he said, “Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Charles said that he had, I asked him if he was loving that girls’ husband. Charles exclaimed, verbatim, “Dang! She was married?!?!” I explained that certainly some of them were, and the others would probably someday end up that way. It quickly became apparent to Charles that he had failed to love, and failed quite spectacularly, just as we all have.

In the open-air I recently preached basically this exact blogpost. I said “love” so many times that my friend who was listening told me that at the beginning of my sermon that he thought he was listening to a particular false teacher who believes God is amorous towards (has a crush on) the whole world. Beloved, it certainly did come across considerably more gently at the beginning as I explained that God is love, he is merciful, he is abounding in grace, he has given us faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. It came to a conscience crushing conclusion, however, when I reiterated what I had said to Charles, and explained that God loves justice, he is exalted on his throne for loving righteousness and hating wickedness, that he loves those who pursue righteousness, and that we have utterly condemned ourselves for failing to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The very commandment that so many cling to for salvation has brought sin alive for us, that which we bet our lives upon has become death for us. It seems like such an easy commandment, love, but when we examine our actions we see that we love ourselves far more than we would ever love our neighbor; none of us hates our own body, we nourish and cherish it, but we have utterly failed to do as much for anyone else.

Oh the irony, that so many idolize a god of love who loves good and bad equally, who thinks sin is a cute little character flaw, that as the antichristian song says “beautiful the mess we are”, who will overlook all but the most heinous sins; and yet we see that the very command to love has become our undoing. Let me stab you in the conscience one last time, for Christ says it is easy to love those who love you, but he commands you also to love your enemies and pray for those who afflict you. You must abandon hope in your own ability to love your way into Heaven.

But beloved, do not abandon all hope, for love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends. While we were hostile in mind, alienated from God, enemies of Heaven, with our mouths set against the kingdom of Christ, the King himself stepped off his throne, demonstrated perfect love for his enemies who hated him, and for his Father who loved him, and willingly gave himself up to death on a cross, despised and hated by God and men. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love has no man than this. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.

You will perish for your lack of love, you will face the consequences of a life set against Heaven and devoted to exalting yourself. This is assured, lest you believe on the Christ who was hated in your place, lest you trust wholly in his goodness, perfection, and love which were vindicated in his resurrection. He who knew no sin, he who knew perfect love, became sin for you, so that you can become the righteousness of God in him. So trust in Christ, transfer your affections from yourself to Heaven; the mind set on the body is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

Then love, unadulterated by pride, will spring forth, and the world will know that you are a follower of Christ by your love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12

If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 4:19-5:3

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