Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lessons of the Sword (II)

Love in the Void

God is love. What a wonderful statement. The fact that we serve a loving God is such a comforting, praiseworthy truth. It’s something that we take solace in during difficult times. Love is such an overwhelming concept that even those outside of the Christian faith recognize its value. All we need is love. Change the world with love. People look for love, desire it. We all understand the great power that love has over our lives, and we also understand our basic need for it.

It’s often said that love fills the void. Unfortunately, in our contemporary, love seems to be in a void. We talk about love all the time, but each of us has a different concept of what that entails. Lately there are a lot of ‘Christians’ talking about how God is love and nothing can overpower that love. His love is blinding, they say, and it’s because of this love that God can forgive sins. This is nothing short of a tragic, erroneous blunder stemming from a misunderstanding of love and the gospel. First of all, love is not the reason God forgives. God forgives because of the atoning death of Christ. Period. There is no other basis for the forgiveness of our sins than the blood of Jesus Christ. Secondly, it seems like these people have forgotten that God has other qualities. Holiness and justice are two that come to mind. Part of the reason that the gospel is so amazing is because justice is meted out. Wrongs are punished and everything in the end is made right. God’s justice demands that sins are punished. Without faith in Christ, one must face that punishment directly. Period.

Outside of this misunderstanding of the love of God, Christians seem to have confusion about how we are supposed to love. Our love is also not in a vacuum. Philippians 1:9-11 gives us some qualities as to how we are to love. In these verses, Paul is giving us a glimpse into how he prays. He prays for the Philippian believers that their love would grow more and more. He wants their love to increase. Notice, though, that he gives some parameters for that love. He tells them the boundaries that their love is to grow within, and he also gives them the reason for their love.

In verse 9, he writes that their ‘love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.’ These are the boundaries for their love. Their love is not to be some kind of undiscriminating, touchy-feely, warm sentiments towards everything. It is to be bound up in real knowledge and all discernment. Real knowledge indicates that their is a false knowledge. Hence we have the love that is preached today which says that God’s love negates His justice and holiness. Hence we have a false gospel that says God’s love won’t let people to go to hell. The Scriptures, the real knowledge of God, tells us that God’s love still demands justice. In fact, His justice is important because of His love. Nobody wants Hitler’s crimes to go unpunished. Nobody wants serial killers to run free. Nobody wants kidnappers, rapists and sex slave dealers crimes to go unpunished. Nobody except for the kidnappers, rapists and sex slave dealers. People who love the victims of the kidnappers, rapists and sex slave dealers want to see them punished for the awful crimes they have committed. Love demands justice. The knowledge of God tells us this.

Not only is our love to grow in knowledge, but also in discernment. Discernment, as Paul says in verse 10, is being able to ‘approve the things that are excellent.’ That is to say, to choose the things that are more worthy of being loved. To choose goodness. Love is to be discriminatory. We need to be discriminating in our love. This is not to say that we discriminate against people, for Christ has told us to love even our enemies. We are to discriminate against bad choices, bad actions, bad motives. Their are things that we are not to love. We are to hate sin, as God Himself hates sin. Love is not in a void. There are parameters to our love.

There is a purpose for those parameters, though, and Paul tells us those in verse 10. The purpose is that we may be ‘sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.’ The purpose of love is holiness. Love is not an end unto itself. Love is meant to make us like God Himself. The holiness of God is His controlling attribute. While it is true that God is love, the Bible tells us emphatically that God is holy, holy, holy. We are to grow in love so that we will be holy. Period. Love is not some abstract quality that just makes us blind to the gruesome features of sin and helps us forget about the rebellious war that mankind is waging against God. Love is meant to understand the truth and to be discriminatory against evil. Love is meant to accomodate justice and bring about holiness. Love fills the void, to be sure. It fills it with truth and justice.

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