Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:7-12 (read 7-21)
Today I want to write about, The Tragic Need So Many People Have to be Right. This is something that’s popped up in my writing several times over the past couple of years, and then Rebekah put it back in my mind Sunday morning in her excellent sermon on peace, Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
The purpose of faith – in its simplest terms – is a restored relationship with God. One result of that relationship is a shift in the fundamental focus of our lives, a movement in terms of what is central, away from ourselves and toward God. Transcendence, in the practice of the spiritual life, is by definition always a moving away from self.
SHIFT IN FOCUS: Love, similarly, shifts the focus of our deepest concern and intention for good. Love as demonstrated by Jesus, and taught throughout the New Testament witness, does not seek to posses, but to give; love builds up the other, never the self; love gives itself away in order to strengthen others; love is about serving, not receiving; love is patient, kind, gentle, encouraging, generous, genuine, and faithful. Love never demands its own way, and it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs; “Love,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Given all this evidence regarding what the New Testament teaches when it comes to the central focus of Christ’s initiative – restoring people to a relationship with God – how then can we account for the tragic need so many Christians have to be “right”? Can anyone’s need to be “right” trump God’s initiative of grace in Jesus?
Does anyone’s need to be “right” trump God’s initiative of grace in Jesus?
How could such a focus on being “right” possibly and in any way transcend self? How can placing the need to “be right” ahead of “modeling Christ-like love” have anything to do with Jesus?
Yet history will remember the opening decades of the 21st Century as the years when the Christian Church told the world repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, that being “right” was far more important than being faithful, that matters of polity are more crucial than initiatives of grace, and that some people’s “right-thinking” interpretations hold more weight than the joy of witnessing restored relationships with the Creator. In consequence, multiple evidences of anger, disunity, judgment, splits, schisms, and separations litter the religious landscape, and they speak more clearly to the unchurched than the faithful discipleship of a million souls joyfully following Jesus.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:
- I am a committed follower of the Living Way of Jesus;
- I am a work in progress;
- I disagree with myself on a regular basis;
- my opinions are likely wrong a good 30% of the time;
- I strive to be faithful, but I fall down a lot;
- I love God deeply, but I’m often selfish and self-serving…
That said, and regarding the tightrope walk between judgment and grace – and this is crucial – the older I become the more likely I am to load my potential for error on the side of grace. If I make mistakes in my ideology and ecclesiology – and I do, we all do – I want to make that mistake in favor of, “if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us…” – 1 John 4:12
In love, and because of love – DEREK