Jesus Loves Me (and you)

child hands

I was driving my children somewhere this morning. They began to sing the old song “Jesus loves me”.  You don’t even need to be a churched person to recognize it…  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

It was one of those nice dad moments. My daughters almost got the lyrics right.  That song may be relegated to Sunday School or even looked down on for being so simplistic.  Though the truth it contains is simple, it is far from shallow.  The love of Jesus is at the heart of the Good News.

The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) was once on a tour of the United States. After a lecture, a student stood up and asked him to summarize his entire theology. Most likely the student was expecting a profound answer from the man who was known neither for his simplicity nor brevity. Instead, Barth allegedly said:  “Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

So from the greatest minds to the youngest of children – the truth is the same. Nothing could be more simple, nothing could be less shallow.

 

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Love for love’s sake

ElvisMost of all I love you ’cause you’re you.  Elvis Presley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernard of ClairvauxWe are to love God for Himself… nothing is more reasonable; nothing is more profitable. Bernard of Clairvaux

 

 

 

 

The King of rock and roll and one the greatest medieval preachers.  One wouldn’t think they have much overlap in fundamental messages but when it comes to the nature of love, you’d be wrong.

To love is to desire another. To love rightly is to desire not just what another can give to you.  It is not to love merely how they make you feel.  It is not to seek self-gratification in another.

It is to love them for them.  No more appropriate is this than when we speak of loving God, our first and most important duty, both Old and New Covenant.  Can we love God not only for what He gives to us, though his gifts are many?  Can we love God not for how he enriches us or how he makes us feel?  Can we love God for God?

Love seeks all things – or… be like John Wayne

Moral of the story? Believe the best and be like John Wayne

Moral of the story? Believe the best and be like John Wayne

We live in times where it is easy to vilify those we disagree with. This goes for people or leaders who we disagree with. Think of how we read our newsfeed.

It is easy to think the worst of people who we disagree with.  It’s easy to desire the worst; to want them to do poorly.  But we’re not called to do the easy thing but the harder thing.  Love for others is, in part, desiring the good for them.  Even if you think they’re off base. Even if it feels as though you (or your “side”) has lost to them.

Consider this reaction to the election of a leader:

I didn’t vote for him but he’s my President, and I hope he does a good job.
—John Wayne (b. 1907) on the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960

 

And then consider this reaction:

I hope he fails.
—Rush Limbaugh (b. 1951) on the election of Barack Obama in 2008  (Source of quotes)

 

Which reaction shows most confidence, graciousness, courtesy, and maturity?  Or to put it in more strictly theological terms…  love?  Love, after all, seeks the good of the other with no thought to pride of self.  Love seeks all things.  That kind of love is neither sentimental nor easy to accomplish in real time.

The harder thing is gracious and rises above pettiness. It seeks the common good and desires what is best – even for an idealogical opponent.  In times like these, perhaps, we need this reminder more than ever.

 

 

How Should God Be Loved?

Marc Chagall, The Song of Songs

Marc Chagall, The Song of Songs

I am in the midst of a sermon series through the Song of Songs (which is Solomon’s).  Not in the midst of preaching but in the midst of being under that preaching.  *an advantage of co-pastoring is that one can both preach and receive preaching*

Bernard of Clairvaux, was unmatched in his commentary on Solomon’s Song, and his writings unpacking it are still amazing to read today.  He saw the fundamental question as being, how should God be loved?  He believed that the love between the young lovers of the Song showed the answer – achingly and without any limit.  And why should God be loved? Simply because He is God.

Consider first how God merits to be loved, that there is to be no limit to that love, for he loved us first. Such a one loved us so much and so freely, insignificant as we are and such as we are, that as I said at the beginning, we must love God without measure.

My God, my help, I shall love you as much as I am able for your gift. My love is less than is your due, yet not less than I am able, for if I cannot love you as much as I should, still I cannot love you more than I can.  I shall only be able to love you more when you give me more, although you can never find my love worthy of you.

-On The Song of Songs

Do You Love God? A Test

Ever imagine your church as a lab for testing whether you love God?

Ever imagine your church as a lab for testing whether you love God?

Do you love God?  If we consider ourselves Christian, we know we ought to.  Greatest commandment and all…

But if we say we love God we could be lying.  After all, “God” is just a four letter word.  Almost like a junk drawer in the kitchen we can insert whatever we want and call that “God”.  We’re always in danger of this – inventing God for ourselves.

This danger – idolatry to be technical about it – is forever with us.  So we need some kind of test in order to know whether the God we say we love and believe in is the True God.  Do we really love God?

The Apostle John gives us such a test.  It’s not a theological exam like we might expect (although theological knowledge is important and helpful).  It’s not whether we can recollect certain Bible verses (although familiarity with the Scriptures is essential).  It’s far more simple and concrete than that.

It’s this:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.  1 John 4:20-21

The test is whether we love our brother (sisters).  It’s whether we’ll keep going to church and loving those we go to Church with.

God we can’t see.  Therefore our devotion to Him is always in danger of becoming abstracted.  Love can often become abstract – thus rendering it not love at all but merely an idea about love.  The peace activist may be motivated by a supposed “love for humanity” but when it comes to the real people she’s in contact with, she can’t stand them.  Humanity is abstract, humans are not.  Love for humanity is great but we don’t know if it real unless we love the humans who make up that great abstract of humanity.

It is the same with love for other Christian.  Sometimes people have very highfaluting talk about appreciation for “the Bride” or “the Body”.  But these are mere theoretical constructs unless we actually appreciate the people who make up such.  John doesn’t let us have abstractions or theories.  He wants to know if we love the brother that we can see.  That’s the person we go to church with.

This is why, although not mentioned explicitly, local church participation is so vital for following John’s logic.  Local churches, filled with imperfect and sometimes unattractive people, are the laboratory is which we test whether our love for God is real.  God I can’t see.  These people I do see, week in – week out as we pursue congregational life together.  They let me know whether I’m lying or not when I say I love God.*

Whoever has tasted the love of Christ…

john newton

Whoever has tasted the love of Christ, and has known, by his own experience, the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, Yea, he is constrained, to love his fellow creatures.  He loves them at first sight; and, if the providence of God commits a dispensation of the gospel, and care of souls to him, he will feel the warmest emotions of friendship and tenderness, while he beseeches them by the tender mercies of God, and even while he warns them by his terrors…

John Newton, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, vol. 5

What’s with the sign?

sign

Look, the sun’s shining down on it and everything.

What’s with the sign? Not the regular King’s Fellowship sign but the one below it in support of the Shoal Lake 1st Nation.  A little of the background on the needs of this community can be found here, here, and here.  (this is a local campaign/issue so if you’re not from Winnipeg it may not be of interest).  Why did we, a local church seeking to worship God in our city, put up this sign?

We were asked.  Steve Bell started the campaign and he asked so nicely for churches to get involved by putting up supportive signage.  The campaign seems sufficiently non-partisan in tone for us to feel like we ought to jump onboard.  Our congregation is certainly diverse in many ways but this local issue seems clearcut to most people.  We get our water from this community.  They can’t drink their own water.  It’s time for that to change.

Christians should care about the public good.  Evangelical Christianity focuses on personal relationship to God and that’s a great and necessary thing.  Following Christ has often been portrayed as and reduced to being a good person or a set of social causes.  We must resist that tendency.  Nevertheless, we also must resist the opposite mistake and forget that our salvation in Christ, while personal, should also turn our eyes and hearts outward to seek the good of our neighbours.  The prophet Jeremiah serves as an example.  We must care about the surrounding culture, society, community, and pray for them and their good.  Also, someone once said we should love our neighbours.  Let’s assume he meant it.  An implication will be that we care for the public good.  Having neighbours without drinking water should bother us.  Especially when our water supply is the cause of their problems.

We can be political without being partisan.  Many Christians are wary of voicing concern about specific issues lest we be considered political.  We are, in fact, called to be political – political in the sense of concern for the polis, the city in which we live.  This is different than being partisan – in bed with political parties or with one spot on the political spectrum.  If we go along with everything the people we vote for do or say, that’s probably not a good thing.  Christians are called to many public concerns.  We may be concerned for issues that are increasingly counter-cultural and unpopular with our neighbours (protection of the unborn, critique of contemporary views of gender/marriage/sex, concern over euthanasia/physician-assisted-death, and religious liberty).  But there’s so much we should care about that our neighbours do as well.  We gain credibility when we are also concerned with common causes; the less controversial issues where we may find common ground.  The lack of accessibility and clean water for a vulnerable community for example.  Peter even teaches how Christians are to be doing good even though we’re looked down on for other reasons.  This is the balance to strike. It is important that we seek, as per Jeremiah and Jesus, the good of all even as we are called to go against the flow.

And a sign isn’t much but that’s why it’s up.