Monday, November 28, 2005

Contemplation #73
We must ‘throw ourselves’ into loving others. Though our love is not action devoid of feeling, this love will often start in a will to act with care and affection while we offer up prayers for God to give us heart-felt concern for others. We cannot make the mistake of waiting to act with love until our hearts have feelings of care. Learning love is a discipline which we must engage forcefully and with purpose even against our natural desires. If we follow only our selfish emotions, we will continue to love as pagans . . . loving only those who love us. There is no hypocrisy in spiritual disciplines in which we seek to become what God wills, acting beyond our present state. If we long for our hearts to catch up to our obedience of faith in love then we are not hypocrites when we act more loving than we truly feel. Only in this way will we love others for the sake of Christ.

Contemplation #74
“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” 1 Thess. 4:9.

The brotherly love that Paul was talking about is this love for our neighbor for the sake of Christ. This was no natural human affection. Since the Thessalonians had to be taught this love by God it was not a natural human affection of the type that is human and essentially self-love. God does not teach us to be self-absorbed and to love others who offer us something we want. The bond of love that we share as brothers and sisters in Christ is unnatural, unless we restrict our fellowship to those brothers and sisters we can love selfishly. Brotherly love among believers is the work of God that enables us to be a fellowship of Jews and Greeks, male and female, slave and free, civilized and barbarian, and yet all loving each other in a way explained only by God’s intervention.

Contemplation #75
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” 1 Thess. 1:4.

Paul and his companions had seen the love of God poured out on the people of Thessalonica. God’s power was at work among them, and the Holy Spirit created a deep conviction in them. This was evidence of God’s favor on them, and proof of His love. Loving others for the sake of Christ is what happens when our love for God becomes love for all God loves. Paul and his companions loved these people because of God. He continues, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thess. 3:12). We see how God loves everyone, and he makes us to share in that love. Who is it that God does not love? Who is it that I may not love?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Contemplation #70
We love others with our eyes fixed on Jesus. This is a ‘detached’ love because we are oblivious to who it is we are loving for the sake of Christ. If I try and search into others to find a reason to love them, an appealing part of their nature or a pleasing action toward me, I may very well find something to draw my love. But I am loving myself for I am finding in them something I love selfishly in order to love them. A detached love is what we give to others because we love God. There are no conditions . . . no way in which our love is related to who others are or what they do.

There are numerous people that we love in an attached way . . . because of who they are to us. Our family, our friends, fellow believers with whom we share common faith, and many others. These we ought to love also in a detached way irrespective of the human joys we share with them. The real test of our Christian love is whether we have love for others with whom we find nothing personally satisfying.

Contemplation #71
Isn’t such a detached love, loving others in whom we find nothing personally appealing, often called ‘agape’ and defined as the loving action we take toward others? Yes, agape has to do with action and differs from eros (passion) and phileo (brotherly affection). . . but let us not believe that by simply doing good to others we have fulfilled the work of agape.

By speaking of agape as the highest form of love and describing it as a choice to do good for others, sometimes we let ourselves ‘off the hook’ of having to feel kindly, true compassion, and real emotion toward those who do not appeal to us naturally. It is certainly godly to choose to do good to others and agape them in this way, but we have not truly learned love if we do so grudgingly, disdainfully, and without affection. We err when we make agape strictly an action which can be legalistically fulfilled and call that the highest love. Agape is a love of choice and like all love is proved through action, but it is also a love of the heart just as sure as eros and phileo . . . though for a different reason. Let us not settle for acting good toward others as being love for the sake of Christ, but let us seek heart-felt love that weeps over the city where live our executioners.

Contemplation #72
How do we learn detached love? Only God can teach us to love as God loves. When does God teach us this love? When we intentionally seek his teaching. How do we seek this teaching? By placing ourselves where God can do this work. And where is that?

I do not learn to love like God when I am with those whom I love naturally, humanly. When I am with family and friends my human affections will be tested, but even then there are still often selfish reasons to love when there are difficulties in those relationships. Often, when the selfish reasons disappear, divorce occurs and friendships end because there was no godly love.

A love toward others for the sake of God is learned not by watching the evening news when we see others who are far from us, but by being face to face with those with whom we have no human affection. By purposefully putting ourselves before others, and seeking in that moment God’s work in teaching us to have love where there is no earthly reason for love, we will learn to love for the sake of God. Unfortunately, many carefully control their associations so as to never come face to face with anyone but those they can love humanly. They are careful even in church to stay with those with whom there is a natural affection. Love for the sake of Christ is learned when we are with those who can be loved no other way.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Our contemplations will move now from love of God to the love of others.

Contemplation #67
We have heard some say love the sinner and hate the sin – but is that the way of love? Do we love well by starting with boundaries so we don’t love too much? Do we need to be worried about loving too much?

Obviously, the motivation behind this saying is based on a desire to maintain holiness, purity, and righteousness. The problem is that the first act of holiness, purity, and righteousness is to love. Love is not one thing, and purity another. To love is to be pure, and ultimately holy and righteous. To say that we want to love in a way that maintains our moral holiness, is to say that being morally untainted is our first concern and that being loving may conflict with it. Instead, let us love dangerously, for in love Jesus took on himself the sins of us all, sacrificing moral purity in order to love.

Contemplation #68
We have heard some say love the sinner and hate the sin – but is that the way of love? Can we truly separate a person from how he or she acts, speaks, thinks, or lives life? If others tell me they love me, while hating what I do, how I live, the thoughts I have, or my lifestyle, what will their profession of love mean? Nothing.

We cannot dissect others to remove the ‘lovable’ from the ‘unlovable’. We cannot love only certain parts of others. To love our neighbor is to love that soul – the person who is the inseparable combination of mind, will, emotions, body, experiences, spirit, choices, actions, personality, and such. This is who my neighbor is, a mix of inconsistencies, goodness and rebelliousness, righteous and wicked actions . . . a person just like myself. This is the neighbor I am to love. Not the good parts of my neighbor, but simply my neighbor.

Contemplation #69
We have heard some say love the sinner and hate the sin – but is that the way of love? Isn’t this what God does, loving the world and yet condemning sin and all types of wickedness?

Let us be clear, we are called to be like God, but we are not like God. Too many seek to be like God in his judgment more than to be like God in his love. Or they seek a balance of the two. In fact, we should seek first to learn the love of God, and to refrain from judgment. Without perfect love, we are not able to judge righteously. We have so much to do in learning God’s love that we dare not assume to judge. We must learn to love others and judge rightly for ourselves, instead of loving ourselves and judging others.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Contemplation #64
We may talk and write about love for God, what true adoration is, and why we should center our affections on God. But loving God, the actual cherishing of our God deep within our hearts, this is something which cannot be arrived at by explanation, instruction, or direction. Telling me why I should love God will not lead to true love, even if the reasons are valid, when I have no will to love. Love for God is what God puts into our hearts by grace. May God give us a desire for love, and may we pray earnestly that God teach us to love as He loves.

Contemplation #65
When Jesus declares that love is the sum of all that the law and prophets taught, he is not telling us that the lesson of love is last we learn after having studied through the law and prophets, all of God’s other revelation, but that love is the first lesson. We begin with love and strive toward love. Love is not for those advanced in spirituality, but for the novice. Every word of God through the law and prophets is commentary on divine love, how we have received it, and how we are to embrace and live out our lives through it. We begin with love, a foreign love that comes to us from God, unknown and strange, because it is selfless. We begin and we strive toward love, from start to finish.

Contemplation #66
There is no spiritual progress in Christ that is apart from love. No righteousness, no holy actions, no morality, no faithfulness, no obedience, no correctness in doctrine or practice . . . is possible without love. All these without love are devoid of Divine Presence and empty. Love purifies our actions and connects every spiritual discipline to God. Though our love is not perfect, we dare not do anything without even the imperfect love which we might possess now. God will make up what is lacking in our love as we attempt to love.