Saturday, October 31, 2015

On The Gospel - Love

John tells us that YHWH is Love and Jewish Scripture reiterates that that He as and extends steadfast love toward people, especially those who He has called to be His people. This love though is not what we often call love. It isn't romantic, emotional, or even familial love as we know them and yet, it is all of them. To have divine Love is to express that Love and to do so willingly and fully. Love, even as we experience it in its specific essence is self-giving for the good, the benefit, the building up of the other. Love in its positive, self-giving aspect is to glorify the other person.

When we say that we are to glorify YHWH, we mean that we are to laud, to give ourselves for Him, to point others to His Love, mercy, and kindness. We glorify YHWH by the ways we live, the reasons we give for what we do, the value He has in our lives and the potential He has in others' lives. YHWH's complaints about Israel is that she has not done this, routinely. She not only has other gods she adores, worships, and runs to for help, but based on the way His people treat each other, who would want to be a follower of YHWH?

Why indeed and yet this enticing peoples to YHWH was part and parcel of Israel's purpose - to bear the message of YHWH and embody His divine Love among herself. Israel was supposed to have a sort of flashing neon light above her that read, "This is the wonderful, loving way to live on the planet." Yet what her sign read was, "We aren't really any different than you are, so no big deal."

Israel did not love and this was her biggest challenge.

It is our biggest challenge.

Divine Love is freely given - to all persons and all peoples. God made Man(kind) and there is nothing in the history of the world that indicates that He has stopped loving Man(kind). Freely given is a key consideration when it comes to love. Love by definition is concern about another's wellbeing, another's full development and full life. Love in the final analysis cannot be compelled, it cannot be coerced, it cannot finally, be commanded. Love must be chosen by the lover, regardless of the response of the beloved. No one wants their partner to "love" them because a third party is making their partner "love" them. It would be clear that their "love" was not true love, but was forced and essentially simply going through the motions. This sort of love would quickly be seen to be hollow and worthless. 

And yet we are commanded to love. Commanded because that is the expectation and it is a command we can choose to ignore. We are also told to become transformed, but that transformation is into the character and likeness of Jesus, who is Love. It makes sense to tell our children that we want them to grow up to be good people, but we speak about being good people as something that would be constituently who they would become. We do not speak necessarily about "being good," or "being have" in public or toward others, but about the character from which would arise those good behaviors, that view of life and others that would move our children to love those around them.

In the same way, we are expected to become those in whom Love is a constituent aspect, those who love because Love is who we are. We become those who choose to Love others as a matter of course, as simply what we do. At some point, we might say that we "can do no other," not because we literally cannot, but because not-love doesn't occur to us. It was popular a few years ago, and still appropriate to say that we become "little christs," living in the world. It is as appropriate to say we become "little gods," loving others and the world as YHWH does. We don't become divine in the sense of essence, but we come to so embody the Love of God that we move about our lives as YHWH did as Jesus of Nazareth.

The good new of YHWH, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than "you can be saved." It is rather, that we can be restored to who we are made to be; we can return to God and live the Life of YHWH right here. We participate in the work of God and we participate in His essence when we receive the Holy Spirit. We are called to become cosmic Lovers, rather than ego-centric sinners. We are called to be who Adam was made to be.

God offers us, and calls us to become Love, the most fulfilling way to live imaginable. It is the most fulfilling because it is precisely who you are made to be; how you were made to live. Every primary religious belief system and modern psychological theory tell us that to embody the fruit of the Spirit and to live as God has intended us to live, is the most desired and the most emotionally healthy way to live.

This should not surprise us, and we should embrace it as the good news - the gospel it is.

Next: On The Gospel - Sin

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