Jesus said to the Pharisees, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.”
—Luke 11:42 (NRSV)
There are all sorts of ‘love’; some truer than others. For the case of simplicity in this article we contrast two forms of love: love of doctrine versus love of relationship, or love of the law versus love of grace. We can suspect where this argument is heading. Love is a very passionate thing. Our key test is, do we devote ourselves pridefully to fighting doctrinal arguments or do we devote ourselves to the rare care and uncommon respect of others?
This is the true Jesus test.
I don’t think Jesus ever wanted us to be perfectly adroit regarding our doctrine; it was always more important, in his day, that his disciples would exemplify mercy, justice, and humility—in the tradition of Micah 6:8. It is important we believe in the right things, but more important is our demeanour toward others.
Do others see salt and light in our lives? Do we really treat others with rare care and uncommon respect?
By the way we treat others, perhaps most of all, we worship God.
Going After a Life of Love
Our first living priority within the regenerate life, having been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, is our devotion to God through loving others. In many ways we cannot actually love others until we have allowed God to heal us enough to love ourselves.
Many well-intentioned believers—some who perhaps have it right via the perfection of doctrinal understanding—with such an acute focus on the theological framework—seem to become deceived, and miss rare care and uncommon respect, in their zealousness. We can usually tell by their lack of love in their treatment of others. They may be easy to criticise; to find fault. They find it less easy to find the credit in people everywhere. They find it less easy to enjoy the grace of God as it is reflected in other people. They may find it less easy to enjoy the peace of God in their own lives.
Perhaps the root cause of their lack of love is they haven’t received yet the healing hand of the Lord in their own lives. Perhaps they are locked into transference and counter-transference—where unconscious processes come into play. A lack of personal love flows out of the heart into others’ lives.
We all suffer this, to greater or lesser extents, because none of us are perfect.
Going after a life of love is seeking the experience of God’s love in our own lives first. What is implied is access to worship. And having been filled afresh with brimming portions of God’s grace we cannot help but love others. Rare care and uncommon respect have become our biding influence. We are won to it.
The true Christian life—the life of real love—is about rare care and uncommon respect. Mercy, justice, and humility: these are our guiding principles. There is no gain for God if we cannot first love others.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.