Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"The Fire's Ready"

Do we love the same things God does?

In 1 John 4:7-17, John writes “anyone who does not love does not know God.” If we are going to have God’s priorities, then we must begin with loving too. Jesus clarified this better when he instructed us to love God and love people, our first two priorities. At the end of his famous chapter on love (1 Cor 13:11-12), Paul says that this sort of love will, in the end, transform us, indeed make us like God.

And it makes sense. John argues the same thing in 1 John 4. As we begin to mirror God’s priorities—loving the way God loves, loving what God loves—we begin to know God, to be like him, to approach him.

Interestingly, I think that if you could find a few people who loved what God loves and hated what he hates, you’d find quite a variety of people. They wouldn’t all be the Religious Right. They wouldn’t all hail from Emergent Village. They wouldn’t all be white Westerners with certain views about God’s mission in the world. They wouldn’t be learned intellectuals. And they wouldn’t all be like me, I have to admit.

So what of this matter with affinity? That’s what started this whole thing. What about affinity’s propensity to promote selfishness and discourage diversity?

I think it is something like what Lewis said, “We love too weakly.” This word affinity means something like “having a liking for or a natural inclination toward.” It lacks any sort of inspiring passion. It sounds like warm water. What’s that good for but putting out fires?

When God gets hold of our lazy affinity, it changes. It’s a bit like Paul’s “cloudy mirror” scrubbed clear. We see detail, brightness, contrast. In short, our smoldering affinity becomes burning love.

Where affinity was driven by my own preferences, love is driven by the other’s best interest. Where affinity focused inwardly (how dark it is!), love shines outward for others to find their way. Where affinity narrowed our field of vision, loves broadens it. Where affinity found commonality among friends, love covers over a multitude of sins and reconciles enemies. Where affinity selected one and rejected many, love binds all together.

When love gets hold of selfishness, it transforms our exclusive interests into skills that serve others. When love gets hold of diversity, our differences supply for each others’ needs.

When we make choices driven by love, we are not choosing to meet our own needs. We are seeking to meet others’. When we’re church shopping, we’re not looking for what will first and only meet our needs. We’re looking for a place to serve and pour into others’. When we’re faced with conflict in small group, we don’t react by abandoning it. We approach it as an opportunity for love to do what it does.

And in the process we are changed.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.”

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