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The elusive love of God

by on July 14, 2015

manly-tyre-shop“We all have our different ways, but it doesn’t matter as long as you follow God’s love, and do good.”

This from the man at the car-tyre shop. He was Aramaic, he told me. An ancient people. Not many people realise that they’re still around. And they are Christian. “You know Jesus spoke Aramaic, and we still speak it”, he told me proudly, in his thick Middle Eastern accent.

He knew I was a pastor. After we’d talked for a bit, he asked me, ‘what sort of church is your church? Is it Catholic?” I told him, no, it’s Anglican. But, you know, we are mainly just Christian. Everyone is welcome.

“Oh, Anglican, Ok,” he said uncertainly. Not sure if he’d heard of that before. Then he said, “It’s all the same anyway, as long as you obey the love of God, that’s what matters.”

I liked the sound of that. Obey the love of God. What an interesting expression. He said it again,

“We all have our different ways, but it doesn’t matter as long as you follow God’s love, and do good.”

Another interesting phrase: “Follow God’s love.” Was this how Aramaic Christians talked? I’d like to explore this concept. Maybe I could learn something from talking to my tyre-guy.

Then the penny dropped. I replayed the thick accent saying it once again. He was saying “God’s law”, not “God’s love”. “As long as you obey God’s law, that’s what counts.”

I felt disappointed. We had sunk from something inspirational to something rather pedestrian. Suddenly we were out of the realm of gospel, and into law. We had dropped from grace into plain old religion. Just like all the other religions. Follow the laws. Sigh.

It seems to me that as Christian traditions age, they so often revert to this. I think of my big R reformed Presbyterian friends and their obsession with hat wearing and other petty details. Of my RC friends and their constant sense of guilt for not measuring up to the standard. Of my evangelical friends, so burdened with the daily shame that they have failed to evangelise and read their bible.

Why is it that the red hot message of God’s radical love in Christ, and the call to plunge our lives into it, so easily cools? Where you do find it, you can’t help the suspicion that if you came back in 1oo years they’d all be back to law.

I reckon it must be a natural tendency of the human heart, to slide back into law and away from love. To turn from the wild, open-ended demands God’s way of love, with its awesome potentialities, back to the controlled predictability of law. To prefer to be able to say, ‘All these I have done fully from my youth’ which you can never say of the law of love. That law is not a river to be crossed but an ocean to be swum in.

Don’t get me wrong, God’s law aka the Mosaic Torah is a handy thing to have around. It probably limits the extent to which my tyre guy is going to rip me off. But doesn’t it leave you longing for something more?

And that something is not easy to find. Everywhere I turn I feel like law not Spirit is the driving force. Certainly the unbelieving world is legalist through and through. But then I visit a church and there too the message leaves me cold. There’s more heart in your average pop song than there is in most of our church services. Pretty often the people seem cold, too. Just look at how the newcomers are treated.

So is there some way to renew and refresh our vision to remain in the love of Christ? I believe there is.

I find when I look at Jesus in the gospels, that does it – when I really slow down to look and listen. I wonder how good we are at doing that? Have you taken any time lately, just to get close to Jesus?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”

John 15.

From → General

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