Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All you need is love....part 2

 I shared on FB and in my last post, Rachel Held Evans' blog:, which made me think of some of the conversations I have had over controversial issues. The question about love--whether love condones or agrees with the other side, how do we love?--has come up on many occasions.  In my last post, I stated how agape love is a love which chooses to love. So I thought I would continue with the type of love we are to choose.  How do we love those who differ from us theologically, socially, or politically? As Christ has loved us is the simple, straightforward answer. If that is too abstract--you know--loving to death people who were his enemies, we can look at I Corinthians 13:
Love is patient and kind. Love bears,  calmly endures even opposing views, pain, mistakes. Love responds not with labels which push people away, put others down, mock the opposing view but responds with kindness.
Love is not jealous, boastful or proud.  Love does not abandon someone who agrees with us some points when they differ from us on a controversial issue. You know, the Christian who believes Jesus is Lord but does not support the literal 6 days of Creation or has a different view on homosexuality or is a *gasp* Democrat or a Republican. Love does not get jealous of the other camp and disown the Christian as a brother or sister in Christ. Love does not boast. Love is not proud. Love doesn't have to have all the answers and can discuss issues without acting like it is my way or you're completely wrong.
Love is not rude. Love does not call names or throw labels around. Love does not invite people to mock other people. Love does not mock others.
Love does not demand its own way. Love does not require the other person to be completely persuaded to my point of view. Love allows the other person to choose and remain in relationship.
Love is not irritable. Love is not offended when someone disagrees with me.
Love keeps no records when it has been wronged. Love doesn't let the wrongs someone has done define who they are, allowing them to still have a voice into other people's lives, into my own life.
Love is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. And so, even when a beloved pastor or church leader is leading a mega church and doing wonderful ministry, when he is unjust in his treatment of any other human being, love does not rejoice. The wrong someone does in no way negates the good. But the good does not negate the bad. Let us call each other to a higher standard of love.
Love never gives up. Love doesn't unfriend or leave a fellowship lightly.
Love never loses faith. I can love those who differ from me theologically, politically knowing that God's love wins. God will correct them or God will correct me, perhaps not in this conversation or life. But I have faith, God wins. God's promise is true--those who seek God will find God and be conformed to the image of Christ.
Love is always hopeful. Love expects the best out of others. Love doesn't assume because someone believes a certain way about a theological, political or social issue that they don't love God and don't believe Scripture. Love gives them the benefit of the doubt.
Love endures through all circumstances.
In this list, we do not find love agrees 100% all the time. In fact, the list has more to do with how we deal with each other in times of disagreement and hardship--being patient, kind, not being rude, not keeping record of wrong.
Let us choose to love--no matter what.

All you need is love.....part one

All you need is love.  So why is it so hard? I have been part of dialogs between friends, on line, on blogs, etc. where the tensions rise and accusations are hurled. In the middle of a heated discussion, someone will call people to love. Another will say "love the sinner, hate the sin." And then someone will ask, "how can we love someone who is in opposition to Scripture?" And yet another will state, "we cannot condone this lifestyle or these actions, or this sin. Christianity is not a feel good, hippie religion." Why is love so difficult? When Christ says "love your enemies," what did he mean?
I think part of the problem is our English.
I love ice cream. So obviously, when ice cream is served I am going to partake.
I love hockey. So obviously, I condone hockey games.
I love my sister. I accept her.
We use the term love for silly, temporary things and for deep, eternal matters. Our culture portrays another version of love which a highly sexual one. And so our understanding of love is blurred in our culture and by our language.
But the Greek, which the New Testament was written in, has more than one term for love. I am going to focus on the term agape, the love of God in the Septuagint and the New Testament, because we are to love others as Christ has loved us. It is the agape love we are to show.
I have often heard preachers discuss how agape love is the unconditional love. When I was in seminary, I did a word study through Kittle's Theological Dictionary on the term agape. Kittle looks at each word in the New Testament in the context of the culture--how did the Greek people in history and the contemporaries of Jesus use the word, in the context of the Septuagint and the Old Testament (the Jewish translators chose specific Greek words for specific Hebrew and Aramaic words when they translated), and in the context of the New Testament--how has the author of the Scripture used the term in other places or other NT authors used the term. I found the term agape is more than just unconditional love. The Jewish translators used the term agape for the love of God or the Hesed in the Septuagint because it is a choice love. While the other terms for love in Greek mean affection or brotherly love, agape denotes choice. God chose Israel out of all the other nations to love. God chose to love Israel, even though they turned from God, God chose them, loved them, and used them to bring the Messiah.
So how do we love people we disagree with theologically, politically, socially? Its a choice! We choose to love first whether the person will agree with us or disagree. We choose love before we know where they stand. Rachel Held Evans had an interesting post on the subject of disagreeing theologically with people:  Choosing to love is to give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them to voice their view. That will be a discussion for the next post.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hell and God's ways

Earlier this week, I was at a table with colleagues and the discussion came around to a new book about Hell, responding to Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins." I can't remember the author or the name of the book in rebuttal. All I recall is my colleague highlighting the argument which reinforced his understanding of Hell. So this blog is not a defense of either books, since I have not read either, but a discussion on my friend's argument. My colleague stated the argument which he agreed with was the thought that God's ways are higher than our ways--Isaiah 55:9. And so when we have a problem with God sending someone to Hell, God's ways are higher than our ways.
I have a couple of issues with this argument.
1. Using Isaiah 55:9 in this manner is an easy way out. If you don't agree with me, "well, you know God's ways are higher than our ways, so it may not sound right to you." Those who disagree with the author or my friend's view of Hell could use the same argument against them. "I know you believe that only those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior will be saved, but God can pardon who ever he wants. You know God's ways are higher than our ways." I do not believe we can have complete understanding this side of Glory of all spiritual truths but I don't think we can simply dismiss different views with "God's ways are higher than ours."
2. What is the context of Isaiah 55:9? Isaiah 55 begins "if anyone is thirsty, come and drink." It is an invitation to come back to God. Turn from your wicked ways. Verse 7--right before the "my thoughts are above your thoughts, my ways are above your ways," states, "God will abundantly pardon." What? God's thoughts and ways are above the context of God will abundantly pardon. It is not our way to pardon so greatly. It is not in our way to expect to be pardoned for the wrong we have done. But it is God's way. Now this is in no way near a complete exegesis of Isaiah 55. But I think we need to look at the context of a verse before we quote it to back our position. We can and should respect the Bible more than simply using it as a bunch of loosely connected Proverbs we can whip out whenever we need a defense or even a word of encouragement. God's story is much bigger than mere snippets.
So those are my thoughts on my friend's defense on his view of Hell. No, I didn't share it with him at the time. There were an awful lot of social dynamics at play and well, lets say I wasn't comfortable. But I share it with you. What is your take on Isaiah 55 and how we use verse 8-9?