Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jesus and Love - Pt. 1 The Most Threatening Virtue

God is love.

And Jesus seems to think love is important as well.

One day, one of the teachers of the Law tested Jesus with a question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Tough question. To be honest, I'd be a bit reluctant to answer a question like that. Like most preachers, I've become quite adept at sidestepping tough questions by answering the question I want to answer. For me to make such a pronouncement about the Law, I'd have to more proficient in the Law. I was taught growing up all of that "Jewish rulebook stuff" was unimportant. So, I have to admit I don't know the Law well enough to even give a guess.

But notice, Jesus doesn't answer the question like we would expect him to. As Post-Reformation Christians, we would expect him to say, "The Law? Why are you so concerned about the Law? I've not come to fulfill the Law. I've come to abolish the Law with a new covenant." However, it would be tough to get there if you pay close attention to Matthew 5:17-20.

Jesus never skips a beat. He quickly wades through 613 Old Testament Laws that he has certainly studied quite often (he was a Jew by the way, which we seem to forget), and he replies, "Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18." Well, not exactly. He actually says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (OK, he still answers the question in his own way by giving two laws instead of one).

Basically Jesus says, "613 laws are commentary on these two. Just love God and others and you've got it covered."

Now, this response didn't work for the Pharisees. And unfortunately, we're still trying to put caveats on Jesus' simple response. It's like we want to remind Jesus, "I think you forgot a few important things Jesus." But I'm sure if Jesus was here to defend himself he'd reply, "I didn't leave anything out. That's it. That's your job. Leave the rest to the Father."

Jesus loves the strangest people. He loves prostitutes, Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, a rich young ruler who can't leave his idol of wealth, and women caught in adultery. And his love separates him from the Pharisees. And his love threatened all of the religious leaders of his day.

We want to say, "Yes, Jesus love is important. But aren't there other things that are important too."

It's almost as if we want to pat Jesus on the head and let him know that he's naive about the world. But I'm not sure he's all that naive. He preached a message of love and was sincere enough about his message to die for it. That doesn't sound too naive.

For some reason, Jesus' boundless love was threatening to people in his day.

And as we'll see in this blog series (and possibly the blog comments as well), I think love is still quite threatening today.


Friday, March 18, 2011

The Most Threatening Virtue of All

Lately, I've noticed that people are threatened by the strangest thing. We're threatened by love.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. "Collin, you must be paranoid if love is so threatening to you."

My response: I bet if you take a closer look, you might just be threatened by love as well.

Look around and you'll notice how threatening love really is:

-When you look at the gospels, the most unloving people aren't the Romans or the pagans. The Romans kill Jesus and they come off appearing even more loving than the Pharisees and religious people of Jesus' day. The religious elites seemed to be threatened by a Jesus who loves people at all the wrong times (on the Sabbath, at the well, on the cross, etc.).

-Church leaders know the truth about Christians perhaps more than any other group of people. But I must admit, love isn't the first characteristic I would use to describe church members. Unfortunately, it doesn't even make the top 10 characteristics I would use to describe church members.

-Three years ago, I had a conversation with a mentor who forever challenged the way I thought about our task as Christians. It all had to do with how threatening it can be to find love as our primary duty as Christians (and I still remember that conversation vividly).

-Rob Bell writes a book called Love Wins and the Twitter world and blogosphere go nuts. And it's not because so many non-Christians commented on Bell's book. Bell's name lit up the internet because Christians were bickering with one another over how literal hell really is. The conversation wasn't about love. The conversation became about whether Bell was a heretic or not. And love didn't win.

And the world looks on wondering what in the world Christianity is really about. Or perhaps they've stopped wondering because we've confirmed their suspicions all too often.

Over the next few weeks, I want to develop these four experiences and express why love seems to be so threatening to Christians.

So, come back for my thoughts and for conversation. My hope is that love might not just be the topic of these blogs to come. Perhaps it might even characterize our conversation.

Perhaps this time, Love might win.