“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” ~ Revelation 21:1
“Love Everybody” is what the sign said as it was being held by some rock-country musician at the 4th of July celebration in Boston. With the Pops behind him and the people in front of him, he had one message, “Love Everybody.” A commendable message, don’t you think? Of course, he didn’t give any clues on how one is supposed to go about loving everybody. I guess he figured we don’t need any help, we just need to love. I guess he banked on the power of his appeal and the love that lay hidden in every human heart. That doesn’t cut it for me. I know my own heart, how un-loving, how selfish and self-absorbed it can be.
It’s almost impossible to read through 1 John and not wonder what love is, how manifest it is in your own life and how you convey it to others. However, those questions start at the wrong place; they start with me, which is the problem (and what I find unlovable about others). If “all we need is love,” then why is the world filled with so much hate, or worse, indifference? Seven bombs and several hundred injured in London, thirty thousand Africans dying a day from poverty-related, preventable diseases, child conscription for Burmese warfare and on and on…do I care? Do I love? Are these the kind of questions should I be asking when I read the Scripture, “Love Everybody”? (1 Jn 3.11, 23; 4.7, 11, 12)
How about asking, Who is love? After all, love isn’t a thing, an emotion; it’s person-al. Trees don’t love, people do. So maybe we should ask what person best embodies love. Who is love? God is. Who is God? Jesus is. Who is Jesus? The most precious person in the cosmos to God, his Father. Why did he die? Because God is love. Why did he resurrect? Because the Spirit is love. Who is the Spirit? Love.
St. Augustine put it together like this: Lover, Beloved, Love = Father, Son and Spirit. A trinitarian love triangle, which is where love begins and ends. We just need to get caught up in it. But how? No one has ever seen God!
John tells it this way. No one has seen God but if we love one another we abide in God and his love is perfected among us. How do we get close enough to abiding in Someone we have never seen? We receive his love. After all, he loved us first by giving up what was most precious for those who were most perverse. How do we know if we are abiding in God and not some figment of our imagination? We receive his Spirit, who enables us to love others. What does loving others look like? Telling them about the Beloved, the Lover and Love. Confess that Jesus has been eternally loved by the Father through the Spirit and that if we renounce our two cent notions of love, we can enter the love triangle and love everybody.
What are some ways we can love? Receive and rejoice in God’s love for us. Pursue righteousness (3.10). Give away our goods to those in need (3.17). Love our enemies and our friends. Lay down our own lives for our brothers (3.16).
Listen to God. Wash the dishes. Give your good shoes to Goodwill. Pray for terrorists. Take a day off of work to help a brother move. Tell someone about Love.
These are not random acts of kindness; they are purposeful acts of love.
Since I started blogging, I’ve noticed a tendency towards solipcism, both in my own blog and others’. Solipcism is essentially a philosophy of life that is radically centered on Self. A blog promotes everything about you and from you, from your point of view. Therefore, it is dangerous. If you were the most important person in the world, then there would be no danger, but there are many more persons more important than you (or me), Three whose perspective is infinitely more estimable. There are a variety of other dangers, like cyber-ranting your opinons and settling for virtual community, which can threaten genuine relationships, both with the Trinity and others.
So what’s the solution to these dangers? Drop the blog and hang out at coffeeshops with friends? Not exactly. Like every other cultural and technological phenomenon, blogging must be engaged critically and carefully. Setting some personal guidelines isnt a bad idea. I came across these from a random blogger. Whether you adopt them or not, give them some thought and consider making your own.
- Does this blog honor Jesus Christ as my Savior and King? This is my first test because I am a Christian. I dare not assume the affirmative and go on. In a sense, the other questions are simply an elaboration of this overarching test.
- Is this a waste of my time? Is this an excellent use of my time, or is it simply my own version of solitaire?
- Is there any value in the words? Is my blog valuable to myself and others, or is it just twaddle?
- Am I taking myself too seriously? Am I pridefully exalting myself? Is this an excercise in vanity as I espouse the superior importance of my own inflated opinions?
- Am I unaccountable? Is anybody going to read this who can really take me to task for my words?
- Do I have a critical spirit? Is this a forum for complaint and criticism, or is it primarily for edifiation?
In church this morning we took the Eucharist. As I sat there searching for the “presence” of Christ in a half burnt cracker, I saw the New England Patriots insignia (http://www.patriots.com/). Perhaps this Texan has been a New England transplant too long? Although the Pats weren’t my first thought, this observation was followed by the recent and ridiculous media preoccupation with someone’s toast that looked like Michael Jackson. (Even the worldclass BBC carried the article for two days. If you want to bid on the toast, I think it might be for sale on Ebay.)
What should we see when we look at the cracker, at the bread? Prior to observing the NE Patriots symbol, I had been contemplating the past and future implications of the Eucharist, in order to relish its present significance.
When John records Jesus’ words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, it is in the context of complaining. The Jews had been complaining to the Messiah, which was really nothing new. They had complained in the wilderness to YHWH, where they were dissatisfied with their diet (6:41,43; cf. Ex 16:7-8 LXX). It was there God responded with the judgment-provision of manna. Complaining is a form of unbelief. It is wholesale rejection of God’s provision and providence in life, whether pleasant or unpleasant, health or no health, life or death. Similar to the manna, the Eucharist conveys judgment and salvation to its recipients. For those that trust YHWH’s Son it is salvation and for those that reject Him, it is condemnation. When I contemplate the crusty cracker, I see more than the Pats and Michael Jackson, I see judgment and salvation, rejection and acceptance, failure and forgiveness, Jesus and YHWH.
And there’s even more to our toast than Michael and manna. When Paul talks about taking the Lord’s supper, he writes: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor 11.26) Interestingly, in addition to the past implications, there are future implications for the Eucharist. We are not only to do it in remembrance of Christ, but also “until He comes.” The Christian life, although rendered possible by the past, isnt meant to be lived there. We don’t just “accept Jesus into our hearts and ask for forgiveness” and that’s it. There is infinitely more to this relationship with the Lord of Life. We are meant to look back to the cross for the foundation for our faith, as well as forward for the future of our faith, namely Jesus. If we want eternity with Him, we must want his return. Some days that is really hard and “far off,” but that’s what things like the Eucharist are for; they are special opportunities and graces to receive more from God in our journey with and toward Jesus. What do you see when you look at the bread, at the cracker? Do you see backwards and forwards, past and future?