Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Love’s Responsible Freedom

“We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up. Those who think they know something still have a lot to learn. But if they love God, they are known by God.”

~1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 (GW).

God always make fools of the arrogant wise, yet how implicitly do we go there—the ‘knowledge’ of one’s oft-cherished wisdom?

We don’t have to go far through the translations and paraphrases of the Bible to discern the wisdom in these words of the Apostle Paul’s to that ‘knowledgeable’ people, the Corinthian church of the 52–55 C.E. period. The Message says, “We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds[1] of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.”

So: Love comes from the humble heart; knowledge ostensibly from the (sometimes proud) mind.

The End of Knowledge Comes Quickly

This is the truth for us: the seeming vast wells of our available knowledge run dry without warning, sending us away scratching our heads, stumped about what can be done. The reason this hits us as such a surprise is, per The Message, we’ve heeded our proud minds in favour of listening to our humble hearts (for the mind thinks “What knowledge has the heart to offer?”).

This issue is recognised in the fields of science where small facts overwhelm us because we can’t see them—ask any engineer or oncologist. A little knowledge can be dangerous as we don’t know what we don’t know; we only think we know it all. Sometimes problems crop up and they take hours, days or years to solve, and in hindsight the solution is always common sense. Still, a heart-informed mind can envisage the danger of vesting too much in knowledge.

Love Beats and Completes Knowledge

Later in Paul’s letter he’s seen proclaiming love (1 Corinthians 13) and this, here in chapter 8, is but a little taste of what’s to come.

Love is the knowledge—first and foremost—of God. It’s the limitations of the human mind stowed in such a way as to be indelibly warned of taking knowledge too far. But it’s a lot more... this knowledge of God is not just wisdom—it’s knowledge of the Lord’s nature, which is to care for all creation, and, to require that same care from creation to and over itself. This is caring for each other in humility.

Love knows there’s always more to life than strict knowledge. It’s true understanding, for all the right reasons, whereas knowledge is found by nature to be short-sighted.

But true knowledge—one that’s buoyed in love—is from the Lord. It is wisdom and truth rolled into one.

Love Furnishes Responsible Delivery of Freedom Acts

Due the items of grace we’re free in all ways in the realm of God. But it’s naïve to think for a moment that such a responsibility—embellished to love—can be discharged without accounting for how it’s done.

Love is accounted-for freedom. This balance is beautifully accorded in wisdom to know both extremes of: complete freedom with the responsible application of knowledge to appropriately enjoy such freedom.

When we act in love (accounted-for freedom) we can be trusted. Due care is issued by way of the choice of the action. If the puffed-up Corinthians had acted with such care they wouldn’t have needed Paul’s rebuke.

For us, love is to define our actions—accounted-for freedom is exhorted; it’s the wisdom of God. Those who act like this “love God, [and] they are known by God.”

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Regarding, specifically for the Corinthians, eating meat sacrificed to idols.

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