Jesus Overcame Un-lovliness to Love

Series on Love, Part 7

This point is pretty straightforward. Jesus did not avoid spiritually or physically unlovely people. He didn’t avoid the rude, crude or crippled. Jesus’ mission was to save people who did not love him. People who were fallen in sin. Who moaned under the yoke and tyranny of corruption.

Jesus loved people who were outsiders, that society rejected and ignored. He stooped and in stooping lifted people up with Grace, service and love. Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. She was coming to the well alone. Most women came out to get water together, which was the custom, to help each other. This woman comes by herself, she’s an outcast. Does Jesus avoid her? Does he berate her for being an outcast? Does he begin the conversation by confronting her sin? No, He addresses her need. He doesn’t focus right in on her sin, he sees His sister in want. He sees past her unattractiveness and immorality to see the image of God in her that’s marred and under bondage and ministers to her there.

Other examples abound. Children, women of ill repute, paralytics, people on the fringe; cast out, forgotten, overlooked. Jesus overcomes their brokenness, ugliness and loves them. Frees them. Lifts them up with Grace. You were fallen. You were ugly. You had nothing to offer God. There was and is no way to reciprocate the love he’s given you and yet He loved you anyway. This is love. Not loving people who can repay you. Not loving people who are easy to love. Christ-like love is seen most purely when it’s extended toward people who cannot reciprocate in any way is most like Jesus’ love.

The arrogant, the self-righteous, the boastful, broken, un-bathed. The sick, the old, senile invalids, drug addicts, the drunks, the liars. Unlovely people often lack propriety, kindness, patience, you know, the fruits of the spirit. They are rude, self-important, crass and proud. Or they’re locked in sin and need freedom. That’s usually a pretty ugly situation that’s hard to be around. Jesus didn’t accept the corruption but saw past it to the marred image beneath that needed love, respect and dignity. He overcame the sin to get the sinner. He overcame the un-lovliness to love.

best friend of man
best friend of man (Photo credit: ygurvitz)

Jesus doesn’t avoid the unlovely He seeks them out. Treating people with love is not about accepting people’s sin it’s about overcoming the sin of people who need our love. Would you moms avoid the trashy looking lady at the park who is yelling at her kid? Would you feel it’s your responsibility to instruct her in proper parenting or would you ignore her completely? Could you overcome your prejudices and her ugliness to love her. To extend to her friendship and kindness?

Furthermore, a common reaction to people trapped in sin is to stay away from them until they get free of it. But if no light ever comes into a dark situation how is the dark going to recede? I didn’t see the ugliness of my own sin until light came into my dark corner bearing the love of the Father. And the one who bore that love prayed for me. She respected the least respectable person who ever lived. She gave dignity where there was none. She saw past the marred fallen-ness to the image of God beneath and loved that image.

Think of your own story. It was compassion that taught you compassion. It was hope that others expressed for you that gave you hope. Remember the person or persons who came like the sun into a dark cave and overcame your ugliness with love.

Now look at the ugliness around you. The angry atheist, the crass redneck, the arrogant businessman, the prideful outdoorsman, the graceless green tree-hugger, the drug addict, the homeless guy who probably could work and see past all the sin and un-lovliness to the image of God beneath. Look at the ugliness and how little there is to love. Go and find the image of God beneath and love it.

To love people with few or no good qualities is putting yourself into a very vulnerable state. It can be very difficult and dangerous to love an angry drunk, drug addict, the self-righteous, the dark and moody. It’s sapping. It requires dying. It’s opening yourself up to be sinned against and hurt. And that often holds us back. Uncertainty, distrust, fear.

C.S. Lewis wrote in the The Four Loves “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

This is what happens to a lot of Christians. The seed of God’s word goes down and sprouts up but the cares and worries of the world choke it. Fears smother the love inside of them and they bear no fruit. We must turn outward in faith and hope. Believe in the sustaining power of God’s love for you and let it extend through you to the unlovely. Be vulnerable and open.

Loving is risky business, but it’s the serious business of the kingdom. Jesus kneeled in the garden afraid. He knew what it would cost Him to love the unlovely. But He bowed His head and looked for protection and provision from God, the Father. Jesus overcame His personal fears to love like His Father loved Him. We too must overcome un-lovliness and its risks. We have to overcome our fears to love like we have been loved.

The Danger of Dogma

A Series on Love, Part 6

There are several definitions for what a social norm is. What I mean by Social norms, are the practices that express a community’s ethics or values. A social norm is a principle put into practice. Social norms are things like tipping. It’s not a law, but it’s socially unacceptable to not tip. It’s ungracious. Even if the service is bad it’s still not ok to withhold a tip. Tipping expresses a collective value.

The Pharisees Question Jesus
The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social norms, in themselves are not a problem. Jesus didn’t rise up against the social norms of 1st century Judaism because they were wicked inthemselves. The problem is, communities elevate their practices to the level of principles and judge harshly any other group that does not follow the same practice. They make practices, principles.

Liturgy is a good example. True Christian worship looks like this and anything else is heresy. Christian communities love their practices; their traditions, and easily love them more than God or people. We create artificial barriers between us and other groups by elevating our social norms above people. This is what Jesus challenged. In Jesus’ day the purity laws, which were right and good in themselves, prevented the Jews from loving people who needed it. Instead it was a source of arrogance.    Continue reading “The Danger of Dogma”

The Tie that Binds

It is this spiritually organic relationship that forms the basis of true Christian community. It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ. There are many organizations, both secular and Christian, whose members work together to pursue common goals. Some of these groups may call themselves communities. But biblical community goes much deeper than sharing common goals, though it ultimately involves that. Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ. It is when we grasp this truth that we are in a position to begin to understand true community.

Bridges, Jerry (2012-09-14). True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (Kindle Locations 108-113). Navpress. Kindle Edition.

Sanctification versus Justification

Westminster Larger catechism Q. 77.

Q. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification of his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 13, Section I.

They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

We see here the continuity and organic nature of these doctrines. Here are mentioned all the proceeding aspects of the Ordo Salutis; Effectual calling, regeneration, reception of a new heart and new spirit. They are not rigid. They are not spokes on a wheel. They are the roots, sinews, leaves, buds and branches of a glorious tree. They together make one thing. Continue reading “Sanctification versus Justification”

The First Arabic Mass in Albuquerque

Flag of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Image created...
Flag of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Image created by uploader based on the previous bitmap image and other imgages found on the web. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are wonderfully unexpected sounds coming from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The songs of the saints there are not in Latin or Spanish or English, but Arabic.

Due to the increasing persecution of Middle East Christians, 2000 year old communions in the Middle East are emptying of their members who are seeking a better life in the West. One positive consequence of this tragedy is that a revival of Maronite and other Orthodox branches of Arab Christianity in the United States is beginning. The Arab Christians are going into exile from their homeland and beginning to regroup in, of all places, Albuquerque. Continue reading “The First Arabic Mass in Albuquerque”