A Pastor’s Thoughts; As…

A Pastor’s Thoughts; As…Robert Henrich, CommonGround Christian Community Center. Provided photo.

As. A short word. Doesn’t say much. That is until you throw it in with some heavy hitters like “forgiveness”, “judgment” – and “love”. Then, if we’re paying attention (or praying attention), it speaks volumes. The problem is that ‘two-bit’ words like “as” usually get passed over in our rush to ponder the ten-dollar words. But when it comes to Scripture, if we don’t take time to hear what “as” has to say, we miss so much of what God has to say.

If we want to know how we will be forgiven, “as” tells us: just look at how we forgive others (Matthew 6:12, 14, 15).

Wondering what judgment will be like when we stand before the Father? “As” says we only need to think about how we judge (Matthew 7:2).

And then there’s love. Before we can fully appreciate what “as” has to say here, we first need to re-learn what love really is. To say that God is love (1 John 4:8) is to say so much more than the world’s stripped down, impoverished version of love says. Before we were ever created, God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – were joyously, eternally, infinitely giving and receiving each other in a divine, never-ending movement scholars call perichoresis. (Perichoresis is a Greek wedding dance, where dancers weave in and out and around each other, ever in motion, ever in relation to one another.) This is the love the Father has for us: “The Father has loved them even as he has loved me” (John 17:23). And this is the love Jesus has for us: “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you” (John 15:9).

Then “as” drops a bombshell: “As I have loved you so you should love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus didn’t say, “As the world loves, so you should love one another.” No, that eternal dance of giving and receiving is how we are to love one another! It must be the foundation for everything we do. As Augustine said, sixteen hundred years ago:

“Once and for all, I give you this one short command: love, and do what you will. If you hold your peace, hold your peace out of love. If you cry out, cry out in love. If you correct someone, correct them out of love. If you spare them, spare them out of love. Let the root of love be in you: nothing can spring from it but good.”

Love like that can only come from a life of unconditional giving and receiving – our version of perichoresis. We’re usually pretty good at the receiving part; but, speaking for myself, not always so good with the giving part. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a real-life example of what it means to love like that, to love as God loves? Well, we do.

I never think of how my mother loved me, or how my wife loves her children, without thinking, “This is how God loves.” This is what unconditional love looks like. It’s love from which we can never be separated; love which is kind, patient, and never fails, which does not brood over injury. Love which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And I am seeing that love lived out in my lifetime; I don’t have to guess about what it looks like. I just have to watch a mother’s love in action.

If we truly wish to honor mothers this Sunday – and every day – then to all the roses, cards and brunches, we would add a commitment to learn to love as they love. 

If I serve as family disciplinarian, I have to love first, then discipline. If I know someone who is lost, I need to seek them. If someone is hostile towards me, my response must be to pray for them, and to be ready to be part of the answer to my prayer. If someone hurts, I should hurt with them. No matter what I say or do, no one should ever have reason to believe I don’t love them.

A mother is a living example of how God loves us. As a mother loves, so should we all love.

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