Friday, November 10, 2006

Reflections of love

Ok, well, I'm about due for another deep one...

Have you ever been saddened by watching one of those court shows, like Judge Judy or The People's Court? I mean, sure, they can be entertaining, and it's always exciting to see some arrogant person get served with the justice due to them. But have you ever been grieved to see the severed relationships? Parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, roommates, friends, all of them have been represented in the court. And while the court can resolve the issue, they can't repair the hurt and reconcile the people. The Law can't bring about love.

Which brings me to my next thought. I've been studying the 10 commandments lately. I get it now, how Romans says that the purpose of the Law is to make us realize that we can't be perfect, and need a savior. Someone who can make up for our inadequacy. Someone who can make us able to love. Did you know the 10 Commandments can be completely fulfilled in your life, as long as you can love perfectly? Why? Because if you love someone, you won't cheat them out of something. You won't covet their possessions (or spouse!) but will rejoice that they are blessed. You won't have an affair on your spouse because you love them, and you love the person you would have an affair with enough that you wouldn't bring them dishonor. You wouldn't lie because it results in hurting people that you love. And most of all, you wouldn't worship any other God because you love Him.

And this is why Jesus said the Law can be summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

But we're always looking for a way around a rule. Yesterday Charlie called me up to his room, where he was supposed to be going to sleep, because he was hanging head down off his bed, and was afraid to get all the way down, because then he'd be in trouble for getting out of his bed. The rule kept him from getting off his bed, but the purpose was for him to get to sleep. And he considered hanging off his bed to not be breaking the rule, because his feet were still on it. We're sinners by nature, and submitting to what's best for us, directed by our authority, is not what we want to do. Even if we know that the authority loves us to the point of being willing to die for us. I'd die for my kids, I'd do anything I could for them. But that doesn't make Charlie any more compliant. The same goes for us with the Lord...

And with my boys, I have rules. They're not to hurt each other. But can I force them to love each other? Not exactly. Yet this is the purpose of the rules.

And this is where legalism fails us. While I could have a check list everyday, where each evening I check off the Laws I haven't broken: I haven't covetted today. I haven't commited adultery. I haven't taken God's Name in vain. Etc. But have I loved -- perfectly? I'm much more likely to be able to fool myself about a bunch of rules, but this one is undeniable. Like with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), who comes to Jesus and says "What good things must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus asks him if he has kept all the commandments, which the guy says "Yes I have" (yeah, right!!). So Jesus tells him, "Sell everything you have and follow me." The guy goes away sad because he was rich. What'd Jesus just do here? He pointed out that the guy loved his possessions more than God. I think this is why Jesus, in Matthew 5-7, raised the bar on the 10 Commandments. He said things like,"the Law says "Do not murder", but I tell you, Don't yell at your brother, calling him a fool." Or, "The Law says 'Do not commit adultery,' but I say to you, don't even look lustfully at a woman." He even said things like, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (This is all my paraphrase, please feel free to read the real thing to compare.) I think that was His point: The purpose in all these rules are that you love. The Law,and Jesus are saying: here's what love looks like. It doesn't bring harm, but good to the beloved.

Here's another verse that states this point, it's in I Corinthians 13: 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So the Law falls short. And on top of that, I can't even keep the Law! So, I definitely don't love like I should, like I want to. I don't always place the needs of others above my own. Motherhood has given me many tests in this area, and shed a lot of light on my selfishness. So what answer is there? Praise God, because in Jesus, we have the ability to love. Which means I'm really out of excuses ;)

Here's the good news: God IS love. So that means the 10 Commandments describe His character. He won't cheat me, won't lie to me, won't be unfaithful to His covenant with me, won't covet or resent the things I have. And even more, I Corinthians 13 is awesome when seen in this perspective:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Here is a description of God. How can you not love/accept/surrender your life to Him when you know this is what He is like? You may wonder, but how could a loving God allow suffering? I won't pretend to know every reason why God allows pain, but know this: It's not because He wasn't loving. He doesn't allow pain in our lives because He hates us. In fact, I Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Does that sound like He hates us, to you? He's waiting on all of us to turn to Him before He returns. Why? Because He loves us! No other reason, no ulterior motive. He proved it by stepping out of Heaven, becoming one of us, and then dying so we wouldn't have to! He doesn't delight in the death of the wicked (Exekiel 18:23). Why? Because He loves them. Who are the wicked? The child molestor, the homosexual, the thief, the serial killer, and anyone who breaks a commandment...that's us! He loves us!

So, while the judges in our courts may not care that relationships are restored to love, the Supreme Judge does. He takes love very seriously. And while the Law of our government, and the Law of God can't enable people to love one another, the Supreme Law-giver can. How incredible would it be if Judge Judy came down from her judgment seat and said to the offender: "I'll pay your fines, and help you restore your relationship here"?! If Judge Judy didn't penalize the offender, we'd say justice wasn't done. But would we prevent her from helping the offender after she's sentenced him? God is our judge, and has every right to sentence us to Hell, but He offers a way out because He loves us. The Judge, in the form of Jesus, came down and took our place. Mercy triumphs over judgment in our case. And now we have God's help in this great task of loving everyone in our lives. Aren't you grateful that we have Jesus?!

1 comment:

Angie said...

Comment from Stacia:

Amen Sister! Thanks for that reminder. I love how you used Charlie as an example that we are all sinners by nature. I am so grateful we have Jesus or else I might be up there on my high horse thinking that I didn't break any rules today or saddened everyday by how many I did break. I still remember as a young girl thinking okay, I'm not going to try my hardest not to "break any rules" not to sin today. How freeing for our children just to know the love of Jesus and to not think about rule breaking but more about how to be like Him.