Friday, July 23, 2010

Not What, but Rather Why

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

We all know this text. This is what you hear at it seems like every single wedding - and if it's a church with people other than the pastor doing the readings, there may be a slight, breathy sigh before the word "love". This text gets so sentimentalized it can make one ill. But let's consider it.

Allow me to make a statement. If you do not understand God's Love, and if you do not view things in terms of love, you will not understand either the Law or the Gospel. That is the point.

As for the Law, our Lord Jesus Christ sums up the law by saying, "Love.... love God, love your neighbor." Love is the encapsulation of the Law. If you neglect the idea of love when considering the Law, what do you become? You basically become a Muslim. The purpose then of the Law becomes a matter of merely doing what God says to placate Him - fulfilling the divine checklist. But, as St. Paul says, if you do not have love - nothing.

God's Law is not primarily focused on "what" we do, as a Muslim would posit - but it is focused on "why" we are to act. We are to act for the benefit of the neighbor - we are to act in love. Whatever we happen to do it is to be based in love -- and should we do the most wondrous of things neglecting love, we miss the boat.

This is the Gospel. . . not that merely Christ fulfilled the Law, not merely that He did a divine checklist - but rather that He did this "for you". For you is the essence of the Gospel - and the Gospel is Christ fulfilling the Law. This "for you" explains why Christ does what He does - it is always for you.

And if you don't understand this Gospel - if you don't understand that Christ has done it all for you, you won't understand the Law. The Law commands us to focus on others -- and if we are worried about doing "what" we have to do, we will be fundamentally worried about ourselves and not our neighbor. What must I do to be holy, what must I do to inherit eternal live. These are questions that have no thought of love and miss the boat.

Every act you do, every decision you take, it is to be based on showing love to God by showing love to your neighbor. What you do - eh, if it's not done for the right way - a noisy gong, useless and in vain. Rather this - strive to show love to your neighbor. Act in their best interest as best you can - and believe that Christ Jesus has acted in your best interest for life and salvation.

Or, as Paul says in Galatians - "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

That's it. It is as simple as that - show love. How? What must I do to show love? These questions show you aren't getting the question. In all that you do, in whatever you do, whatever you happen to be doing, be showing love. The what isn't nearly as important as the why -- it doesn't matter whether or not you eat the food sacrificed to idols - show love to your neighbor either way. If eating would harm the neighbor, don't. If eating doesn't harm - eh, do it if you wish.

Or as Paul says again, "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Again - the focus is not on what specifically you must do - but why.

Show love. Help your neighbor to grow and mature. IF they are freaked out by things - don't freak them out (even if it means you let yourself be circumcised) unless they view their thing by which they are freaked out by as the essence of Christianity (instead of love), and then oppose them (but even then, out of love, because if they have lost the focus on love, they need it back). Because once you no longer focus on Love, you will slowly no longer focus on Christ's love for you.