I almost corrected her when she said “God never fails” but then I realized that since “God is love” she’s actually right on. Out of the mouth of babes!
This could be a book-length article, but it won’t be. It’s just an appetizer; something to whet your appetite before a life-long meal at God’s table discovering his love for yourself.
I’ve found the understanding of God’s love to be the keystone in the arch spanning God and man, his creation. It’s what makes the Bible, God’s inspired history of mankind’s time on Earth, make sense. Without an understanding of God’s love, the Bible–yes, even the Word of God itself–becomes merely a “sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.” It is a chaotic compilation of laws, commands, letters, prophecies, wars, fiery judgments, promised lands, history, and instructions if we don’t grasp God’s love. In short, love is the “secret decoder ring” of the Bible.
The move from a covenant based on law, to one based on love and grace, was hard for the Jews in Jesus’ day to understand. The culture of the teaching in their synagogue was so legalistic that it gave them blinders that kept them from understanding his message. Why? Because they had become so conditioned to think of God as a rule-maker, and righteousness as rule-keeping. Had the Sanhedrin (religious leaders of the Jews) grasped God’s love and grace, and his desire for a relationship with his people, the message would have clicked instantly, as it did with so many Gentiles when the message was brought to them.
The message of God’s love for mankind, and mankind’s loving response back, was not always so obscured by legalistic ideas about rule-keeping. David was a fallible man who sinned greatly against God and man. He even murdered a man and stole his wife. Yet he was not a legalist. He was a man after God’s own heart, because he loved deeply.
He understood that God is love and reveled in it, as is so apparent in reading the Psalms. There is no place his love for God and man was more evident than in his relationship with Saul and Jonathan. Saul was a declared enemy who was trying to kill him, and Jonathan was a friend closer than a brother who was trying to protect him. Yet he loved both equally.
Because he knew and felt God’s love personally in his life, he was able to display it and pass it on to truly one of the most despicable personalities in the Bible, Saul. Love your enemies? David “got it” long before Jesus taught it.
Out of nothing more than ego, Saul wanted to kill David in spite of his loyalty to the king and to God. David did not return either the sentiment or the actions. I believe he also saw through the legal implications of eating the shewbread in the tabernacle simply because he had a clear understanding of the loving nature of God.
So what does God’s love mean to us today? Well, it means the New Testament is not a law book, first of all, so we need to stop trying to decode it as if we were all lawyers practicing before the bar, as May Meetings so often sound.
In fact, can we agree to speak accurately and acknowledge that the “New Testament” is not really even a book? “Testament” means “covenant.” The New Testament is the covenant between God and man through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Matthew through Revelation are the scriptures (writings), inspired and accurate, that tell us all about this New Covenant. Therefore, what we conveniently call the New Testament, or New Law, is really no such thing, it is the New Covenant Scriptures, really; or the scriptures about the New Covenant.
If we are going to say we have a “law of Christ,” then perhaps it is to bear one another’s burdens (which sounds suspiciously like love):
Galatians 6:2 – Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Yes, of course we need to keep his commandments:
1 John 3:22 – And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
But maybe we ought to read the next verse, as well:
1 John 3:23 – And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
The law of God is no longer contained in legal ordinances, that was abolished. He didn’t nail one legal code to the cross only to create another in its place:
Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
It only stands to reason, then, that we shouldn’t pretend we’re lawyers (like the Pharisees were) and treat the New Covenant Scriptures as if they were the Uniform Building Code (UBC), trying to find in it a bunch of rules and regulations that are simply not there.
Instead, for believers who are filled with the Spirit, the law of God is written on our hearts:
Jeremiah 31:33-34 – But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
It makes as much sense to interpret the scriptures like a legal code book as it does to read a love letter from your spouse, or a travel diary of your last family vacation in that way. God loves us, and because of that, he recorded a history of where we came from, his people, his son, his son’s death, and the spread of his son’s message of redemption in the first century. That written record is our Bible.
Let that paradigm shift sink in and everything else will follow. Your life will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and all the other fruits of the Spirit, because love allows the Spirit to work in your life. Love brings life. The letter kills.
Some of you may be feeling like this message of love is too good to be true; that it’s a “soft” and “easy” gospel. It is no such thing. Try it. Loving unconditionally is harder than it sounds, and fills every decision of every day, but it is filled with a reward of more joy, peace and confidence in Jesus Christ than you can ever imagine. Loving God is truly “joy unspeakable and full of glory” and brings alive the message of the cross so that the Word is no longer a dead letter; no longer a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. With love, it comes alive.
Take a look at this scandalously “soft” message penned by Paul:
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 – If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
All the law-keeping in the world, absent love, is worth absolutely, positively nothing. No “well done, good and faithful servant.” No healed relationships. No healed families and repaired marriages. Nothing.
Ponder love, then tell me where women wearing black jeans but not blue jeans to Bible class fits into the scheme of things. Let me help: it doesn’t.
Let’s not strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Embrace the paradigm shift of love rather than law, and it will revolutionize your world and turn it upside down. Funny, that’s what the gospel did in the first century. Hmmm, maybe we’re on to something here.