Learning Love

The Lord has revealed Himself to be, among other things, full of loving compassion for a resentful and resistive creation – namely mankind. And when I say mankind, I mean me – the unworthy and ungrateful wretch that I have found myself to be. We (I) are so beneath Him in every way possible, and yet time and time again He demonstrates His willingness to overlook offense, practice mercy, and go out of His way to do thoughtful kindnesses for us (me). I personally am appalled how easy it is for me to then turn around and dismiss my fellow “worms” because they don’t dress cool enough, or they don’t talk correctly, or they have missing teeth, or perhaps too loud of a laugh. Maybe their manners are undeveloped or their political views ‘incorrect’ (different than mine). Outwardly I seem to accept them, but inwardly I cringe at my personal caste system that rates and ranks my fellow human beings! Who am I to be arrogant and condescending about people who probably are my betters in so many ways? While I concentrate on having good doctrine they might be busy buying groceries for their poor neighbors. While I am busy tweaking technology on my smart phone, they might be working a second job to provide for unappreciative (or so it seems) kids. I deplore my arrogant attitude but find it is like a weed – needs no watering, sunlight or care, but it grows rapidly and chokes out the flowers in my soul.

I read in my Bible that I must love these ones as I love myself. That is like telling me to climb Mount Everest (which is not going to happen). I lack the discipline and the drive to attempt that feat, but I do want to obey the Lord in this call to compassion and kindness and respect. I make plans, I pray, I get involved with people, I volunteer – but as I look inward to my heart I find that I am probably just throwing the yapping dogs of conscience some table scraps to keep them quiet and stop the nagging. The invisible pat that I give myself on the back does little to convince my heart that I am indeed fulfilling the law of love.

I find myself in that frustrating position that the apostle Paul did in Romans 7:15: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Well, just like Paul, sooner or later I realize that I cannot work up the self-effort to love. The only way I can give others the respect they deserve as immortal creatures, precious in the sight of my Creator, is to see myself as I really am- a desperately hopeless sinner myself in need of an infinitely merciful Savior. How seldom I take the time to consciously list my offenses against the One Who suffered humiliation and heartbreak to purchase my miserable little life from the grasp of my mortal enemy. The transgressions are appalling, and the omissions are embarrassing. Having followed Jesus for these many years, I am without excuse and without even a shred of hope to love like He calls me to unless He Himself does that work in my heart. Not only does He have to save me, He has to maintain me or I function in the realm of imagined goodness. The rightness I possess on my own is a grain of sand on the seashore of His shared life. I forget to access it. I try to work up my own goodness. I struggle to know how to live it. But like Paul, I finally come to that foregone conclusion: “In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 JBP Once again, Jesus is the answer. Back to trusting in the goodness of Another and learning to access His life that grows quietly in my soul as I tend to it.

As always, Mr. Lewis has profound insight into this consideration:
“And now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being formed in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.     Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.”                                   From Mere Christianity

Let us salt our relationships with the love of Christ!

For your further enjoyment, read Paul’s thoughts in Romans 7 as recorded in The Message Bible

…Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.                                                                                                                                             I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.                                                                          But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.                                                                    It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

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