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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Love

I just read a great book by Harry Kraus, MD called, The Cure: The Divine Prescription for the Body of Christ--Life Changing Love. His message is clear, the heartbeat of the Church must be love--we need to be saturated with God's love for us (the gospel), this love needs to flow out to nurture the rest of the Body of Christ, and this love must overflow to bless those who do not know Jesus. This love is not saccharine, short-lived, self-serving, superficial, conjured up, or simply grand talk with no action. This love is sacrificial, persevering, pursuing, engaging, risk-taking, sincere, affectionate, lasting, and devoted and does not return evil for evil, but rather returns evil for good. As Dallas Willard puts it (quoted in Kraus' book p.62) this love is "to will to good" or to promote the good of the beloved for the sake of the beloved.

How many of us love like that? When I am in an argument with Kristian, how often are my words and actions oriented toward his good? When I have met the most annoying person on the planet, how are my demeanor and actions oriented for his or her good? When I have witnessed someone wrongly accused or wrongly treated, how are my actions or inactions oriented toward that person’s good? When someone has deeply hurt or betrayed me or someone I love, how are my heart and actions oriented toward that person’s good? When I see my brother or sister in blatant sin, how are my heart and actions oriented to that person’s good? All of these situations require me putting my interests aside—interests like my comfort, my pride, my rights, my reputation, my feelings, my resources, my time, my energy, etc.

What I am not talking about is conceding to or enabling another person’s sin or fostering injustice. What I am talking about is a heart that tells the truth of the gospel in love. This involves telling the truth about sin—our sin first—remembering that our righteousness was bought at a price we could not pay. And from that place of HUMILITY, it involves communicating IN LOVE (with words and without words—through prayer, longsuffering, service, overlooking minor offenses/irritations, etc.) the glorious truth that forgiveness and true freedom are graciously offered without cost from the hand of Jesus for all who would humbly come to Him. This good news is something about which we must lovingly remind each other because sin WILL creep up in our hearts and lives on this side of heaven, and our hearts and sins deceive us. We need each other so that we will not be deceived. At the heart of this difficult and inconvenient love is a heart of reconciliation. We cannot love someone and be okay with the lack of reconciliation between us. We must do all we can in love to pursue peace (Romans 12:18), but only in a way that is true to the truth of the gospel of love. Obviously, there is only so much we can do when the other party refuses to be reconciled. Yet we must continue to love actively through prayer and through any opportunity that God provides—never giving up. When we love like this, we are promoting the good of those we are called to love.

Here is a quote from Kraus' book:
Love stands at the heart of the gospel, the core of God's motivation and plan to rescue is bride. Now just to be perfectly clear on this, I am not talking about a wimpy, overly soft love that says, “I love you no matter what you do. Rather, this love, God’s love for us, says, “Your wrong thoughts, words, and actions are despicable in my sight. I cannot wink at or overlook any of it. Nevertheless, I love you. I want to pardon you and make you brand-new, and that’s why I sent my only Son to pay the price of your sins and win your forgiveness in him.” Yes, love stands at the heart of the gospel—love that was demonstrated at the cross where the totally innocent Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, died so we could live. In that sense the cross stands at the heart of the gospel, because it was there that God’s love shone most clearly and most powerfully. And once we come to know God through Jesus Christ, that love is to flow out from us to all who are around us. Jesus couldn’t be clearer. Love was to be the way that everyone who wasn’t a Christian would look on and understand. Oh they’re Christian. I can see it in their behavior.

Paul says that without love, we’re dead in the water. Ministry fails. Evangelism falls flat. Our witness is void. Come on my good deeds must be worth something! Surely God notices.
Not if they are devoid of love. Then every effort is useless. That’s why Paul says we are to pursue love. I like the way it reads in the Living Bible, a helpful paraphrase: “Let love be your greatest aim!” 1 Cor 14:1a. ----pp 172-173 The Cure
Oh Father, Please give us more love!  Fill us so completely with your love.  Remind us of all you have done for us.  Remind us of your character--the heart of which is love.  Show us the beauty of the true and powerful and tender love between Father and Son by the Spirit.  Show us how you have made that amazing love to overflow to us. Thank you for allowing us to partake!!! Show us how we can love your Body in ways that honor you.  Show us how we can love those who do not yet know the joy of worshipping you.  I can think of so many specific examples in my life and the lives of those I love where there is separation due to sin.  Teach us how to honor you in these circumstances.  Where we are blind to our own sin, please open our eyes.  Please help us to walk in repentance and in humility.  Help us to be teachable and open to your loving rebuke however it may come to us.  Show us how to love those who are walking in blatant sin against you and against others.  Speak to us about concrete ways that you want us to love them.  Show us how to promote their good in each circumstance.  Show us what loving them should look like even when they want nothing to do with us.  Bind up the wounds we have all suffered.  Refresh our weary souls with your satisfying love.  May it energize and empower us to love others.  We pray for you to soften any hardness of heart in ourselves and in those we love.  Please bridge the gap again, Oh Great God of Reconcilation!  Do a marvelous work that your name would be exalted.  I thank you that even though there is so much we simply don't understand, you are infinitely worth of our trust.  The good you are working toward even in the ugliness of our sin and theses situations will one day take our breath away.  I know it!  Thank you, Lord.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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