Grace and Peace to you all even in the middle of this storm. We are aware that most of the people on this list have been affected in some way by the Tropical System that is Harvey. Please know that our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family that God will keep you safe through these catastrophic events and that some good will come from all of this rain…even if it’s to show us how the scripture below applies to us.
—————————————————————————————— “Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:8a
About three months ago, we started Weekly Meditations again. Obviously, we were delusional in our expectations. I planned a “restart” meditation around technological difficulties, the best laid plans, and the like. Hopefully, every person on our, now, single list wants to receive meditations for prayer and reflection each week. (If not, we’re sorry to see you go, but you can unsubscribe below or at the website: www.servantsfeast.org) Also, hopefully, all the email addresses we are now using are correct. But before I got to that meditation, Charlottesville happened.
No doubt, every Christian with a pedestal from which to speak (or write, as the case may be) has an opinion about our Christian response or the inexplicable hatred or the power of the love of God. Certainly, it has never been the case that I lack for opinions, but there is nothing that would give me greater credibility than most others. Yet, I cannot help myself. It is this last idea – the power of the love of God – that I wish to address. What we say in response to vicious evil matters, a great deal, actually. Our world is at best skeptical of, and at worst indifferent to, Jesus Christ. Indifference is not the same thing as hatred or rejection. That topic can be a meditation on another day.
When we are visited by unspeakable atrocities such as happened at Charlottesville, what we say reflects on God Himself. What others hear from our mouths determines in large degree what they will think of this Jesus Christ we claim to follow. Our natural inclination is to hurry to reassure ourselves and others that this is still God’s world, and His love never fails. But, I wonder if this is accurate? If someone who knows almost nothing about Christianity hears us say that “God’s love never fails,” and “God’s love conquers evil,” one has to wonder what that person thinks. It seems pretty clear from the level of violence, hatred, and destruction that God’s love did not prevail on that Saturday in Charlottesville. From all appearances, I would vote with the skeptic that evil won the day.
The reason I am making an issue of this is not because I do not believe that, ultimately, the love of God will defeat all evil. To the contrary, I am absolutely convinced that is true. No, the reason I want us to think on our assumptions about the love of God is because, by every outward measure, sin and evil often win. As Christians, we are not accustomed to thinking about our world like this because most of us remember when our nation was basically Christian, nominally Christian, but Christian nonetheless. We need to break our association between Christianity and culture. Regularly, we lament that the culture is not Christian, but we have not seriously considered the alternative. If we are not Christian, then what are we? Christianity is not being replaced by something noble or worthy. Instead, our culture is now being untethered from the Source of all good, all light, all truth, and all love. Thus, the further our culture moves from Jesus Christ, the more often we will see sin and evil prevail over good and righteousness. In Charlottesville, the truth of human nature is revealed in all its humiliating and terrifying glory. This is the end to which humanity is destined apart from Jesus Christ. We, as Christians, need to remember that.
The world is broken, sinful, fallen, and dark. The Cross of Christ reveals the depths of our capacity for evil, as we sought to destroy God Himself. The image of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, hanging on the Cross tells the story of human depravity. This is who we are – ignorant, arrogant creatures choosing our own condemnation and destruction. Harsh words, but we need to remember what we will become apart from Jesus Christ. And yet, the Cross of Christ reveals not only our sin, but the infinite love of God for His creation, for us, the creature that would rather be God than worship God.
For this reason, we are quick to proclaim the victory of God’s love, but I fear we fail to do justice to the forces of sin and evil in our world. Likewise, I suspect we are unrealistic about the meaning of Paul’s words. When Paul wrote about love in 1 Corinthians 13, he wrote to a church in conflict, to a people in spiritual competition over the issue of superior spiritual gifts. However, the letter was written to a fledgling Christian church. The letter was not printed in the Daily Roman Times or posted on the Weekly Athens Blog. It was written to a church, and that fact is relevant to how Christians understand the victory of God’s love.
Does God not love those outside the church? Of course, He does! But they do not know that, nor do they seek to shape their lives by this unknown love. No matter how vast is God’s love for us, if we do not know He exists and His love is real, we muddle along in darkness and selfishness, grabbing for whatever happiness we can pull from the world around us. People who live their lives this way hear us say that God’s love never fails, and they think we are idiots. Why wouldn’t they? We have failed to do justice to the reality of evil, the fallen nature of the world, and the depth of sin in human beings, akin to offering a band-aid to cover a mortal wound. They can look at Charlottesville and see the obvious. We are the ones consoled by the knowledge of God’s victory. But God’s victory has not fully come, and until it does, sin and evil will win. Even so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ can speak most clearly in the face of the victory of evil. When we see such ferocious hatred and hear the rancid vitriol, that is the very moment to remember why our world needs a Savior, as well as to proclaim to all that a Savior has come. You know, and I know, that our Savior came as an act of love beyond anything we will ever understand, but for now, what people need to hear is that God not only is aware of the strength of hatred and evil, but He is saving us from it. It is not enough to say that God’s love never fails. We have to say, because there is such evil, God sent His Son into the world to save it because He loves this world. Our mistake was ever trusting that a world without God is good. We should have known by looking at the Cross that love can fail. People do choose to reject love, even perfect love.
When human nature is unleashed to follow its freedom to deadly ends, in that moment, Christians can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with non-believers and agree to be horrified and grieved, but we can also whisper to the one who does not know, “This is why I need a Savior. There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The preacher’s sermon that week was on the John 1 passage in which Philip tells Nathanael to “come and see.” Now is our moment as Christians, not to tell the world that the love of God never fails, but rather, to show the world where the love of God prevails. Then, let us all bow down before God and pray, “Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Please, let Your love conquer me.”
In Christ –
© Servants’ Feast Christian Ministry, 2017