Friday, January 05, 2007

On Loving and Lying

We believe in a God who restores the years the locusts have eaten, who counts every individual as of extreme worth, who loves us so deeply that He transforms our very inner being and definitely brings healing which we all need, who in sending Jesus identifies totally with us in every suffering possible yet can carry us through, who never gives up on us, and who is passionate about relationship. We all came away from the evening with a renewed commitment to our community's priority of reaching out beyond our own familiar and comfortable worlds." -JOANNA GILLUM of the Community of St Jude (London)

Reading the Community of St. Jude’s website is refreshing. As Christ is formed in His people, it is refreshing to see the fruit of that formation evidenced in the character, values, and behavior of those who comprise a community of believers and claim captivity by Christ and His ways. Believers can be worlds apart – even centuries apart- and yet see a common evidence of God’s handiwork in His people across the globe and the span of time. For me, this is an encouraging reality; yet, based on some encounters with folks professing Christ, I must ask if we, the Body of Christ, really believe in a God who restores, values, transforms, heals, identifies in our suffering, never gives up, and is passionate about relationship?

I pray we do believe and that, as His people, we will increasingly choose to live and love accordingly? Sadly, muddying the waters of our relationships in ways that cloud the reality of His relationship with others and us seems to be the preferred course of many. This should not be. Rather, may we be known as a people who, whilst peculiar yet contextual, are about the business of blessing others and living Christ-like lives and pursuing Christ-like pursuits? Our impact on the community and world should be notable – even if we present a stumbling block to some. At least, those who disagree should be aware that we are here, transformed by Christ, and following Him whilst growing in grace and engaging our world.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20; NIV) Clear enough but are we growing towards “obeying all He has commanded? If we are, our presence as His church will be markedly known, felt, and seen – to the glory of Jesus.

Before closing, two passages and quote from John Stott come to mind. One is a passage from Luke, actually a reference by Christ to Isaiah 61, and the other a passage in 1 John 4. The book quote I will mention later.

Passage 1:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
(Luke 4:16-21; NIV)
Passage 2:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21; NIV)

Maybe “walking in a manner worthy of our calling” a tall order? Yet, is it not our aim? Moreover, do we not have a calling to follow, grow, and belong rather than an invitation to seek selfish aims and comfort?

Consider this,
It is a great mistake to suppose that it (salvation) is merely a synonym for forgiveness. God is as much concerned with our present and future as with our past. His plan is first to reconcile us to himself, and then progressively liberate us from our self-centeredness and bring us into harmony with our fellow men. We owe our forgiveness and reconciliation chiefly to the death of Christ, but it is by his Spirit we can be set free from ourselves and in his church that we can be united in a fellowship of love.” (Stott, John RW, Basic Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 98)
So, in closing, may we opt for growth and may we do so together- to His glory and for the good of creation.

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