Thursday, April 3, 2014

Theology Vs. Love

This post is borrowing elements and insights from John Pipers book, "Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God"(specifically chapters 5-7).  It is a good and challenging read that I encourage anyone to pick up for themselves.

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If the blogs are to be believed there is a great war within Christendom about the heart and future of the Church.  Heated exchanges between multiple camps draw distinct lines that say, "If you do not agree with this, you are out!"  Every public utterance has a response.  Each response receives a response.  And each response to a response receives a.....response. 

For most Christians who are not well versed in Scripture and Theology they are left to throw up their hands and say, "What about love?"  And even more difficult to understand is the perception of the damage to the Church's witness all the infighting seems to create. 

So, what do we do?  Do we step out of the debates and focus on Love?  Do we create new coalitions and draw bolder lines that all who step outside are no longer a part of the Church proper? 

Let me contend with you.  To avoid important theological debates is diametrically opposed to Love, AND, it may be important to draw more distinct lines of what it means to be a Christian.  And, to not do so is to bastardize beyond recognition the whole concept of Love.

Perhaps you find this confusing or offensive.  The whole idea that "dry and sterile" theological debate is a primary source for proper love is difficult for you to swallow.  Is not Jesus' greatest command to Love God and Love your Neighbor?  How do theological debates fit into that framework?

It fits perfectly.

How can you actually love someone when you do not know anything true about them?  You might love the "concept" or the "idea" about them, but you do not love THEM.  If my wife would ask me, "Why do you love me?"  It would be hurtful and ridiculous if I began to describe things that I love about her that are the actual opposite of who she is.  If I would tell her that one of the things I love about her is her dark straight hair, she would probably wonder what woman I was really describing because she is a natural curly headed blonde!  Or, what if I described the color of her eyes wrong, or had no actual idea what her favorite book/movie/date etc are?  Each wildly incorrect statement would be a dagger to her heart because it would tell her that I haven't really taken the time to actually know her and love her for her.

How can we love God, and love others, if we do not know what is true about them? Or, if we deny that which is true about them and only love them in the way WE want them to be?   The heart of sin starts in the garden with, "Did God REALLY say that?"  And from there we begin to craft God after our own image, instead of being shaped into His. 

So what about the greatest commandment?  It says its all about Love, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because Loving God is at the heart of repentance and redemption.  No, because we do what I just described, love on our own terms, not His.  Which is no real love at all.

To understand this passage when it comes to loving our neighbors we cannot miss an important point.  The second command is LIKE the first.  Not the same as.  Not a perfect copy.  But like.  The way it is constructed is that it indicates that loving your neighbor is an outflow of the first commandment.  When you fulfill the first, you will be able to fulfill the second.  Conversely, if you do not fulfill the first, you cannot fulfill the second.

The first commandment is very important to grasp in its entirety as well.  It says to love the Lord your God with all of your Heart, Mind and Strength.  But what we miss in the English is the Greek verb usage in this passage.  The primary outflow of love is FROM our Heart.  The mechanism's by which we love in our heart is our Mind, AND we are to do so with great vigor(strength).  Meaning, to love God with all of our heart REQUIRES the work of the mind.  And to do so with commitment and dedication. 

This means that to fulfill the second command we must first love God out of an outflow of thinking truthfully and rightly about Him as a discipline of the use of our intellect.   How can we love truthfully when we desire to create our own truth and characteristics about Him and even deny those truths that He Himself has stated about Himself?

We cannot.

You do not have to agree with any position that the Bible gives.  But do not deny what the Bible says and say you are loving God.  They are intellectually diametrically opposed.  How can you say to your spouse, "I love you, as long as you are the opposite of what you really are?"

This is why, as troubling as it can be currently, the debates about Theology are essential.  To know and defend the truth about God is at the heart of Loving God, and therefore, Loving others.  Perhaps you disagree on some point or another, and that is ok.  Let's go to the Word and figure it out.  Because being right about Truth is of the utmost importance.  For both of us.  But let us have no more of this criticism of peoples criticism.  it is right and good to correct that which is incorrect FOR the sake of Love.


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