16.4.08

The Visible Love of God - part 2

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1Jn 3:1a)

In my last post I wrote about how Christ is the visible manifestation of God's love (agape). But it is not just in Jesus that the visible love of God is displayed...

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God...

The primary way that God's agape love is made visible to the world today is not through Christ, whom they cannot see, but through us! The church, the community of the children of God, is designed to be a display of what the Father's love looks like to the world.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)

John's message, time and time again in his first epistle is that our love - the love between brothers and sisters in the faith - is a visible expression of the Father's own love. If we love each other we display the love of the Father. If we do not love each other then it is a telling evidence of an absence of the Father's love - not toward us, for that remains steadfast even while we were still in sin - an absence of that love reflected in our own hearts.

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. (1Jn 4:20)

Our display of agape love to each other, I believe, is the primary way we make God manifest to the world. Even the gifts of the Spirit, which are described as manifestations of the Spirit - and thus by design function to make God known, are meaningless if they do not operate in the context of love. You cannot have chapters 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians without chapter 13!

We are happy to boast in the Father's unconditional love towards us, but how is that reflected in our attitude towards a brother or sister who does not measure up to our own "conditions"? We thank God for the journey he has taken us on out of error and into truth; yet how do we react to those who speak what we consider to be in error? Do we instruct them gently or rebuke them harshly and publicly? It's all too easy, like Peter, to be confessing Christ one minute, and be a mouthpiece for the Accuser the next. As James says - my brothers, this should not be!

If the light does not shine on its own stand how can it illuminate the world?

How are we to love each other? In the same way the God loves us. Not just conceptually or emotionally, but tangibly and visibly, with a love that does something that can be seen.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1Jn 3:18)

11 comments:

SLW said...

Very nice. Amen!

Chris HH said...

Thanks, SLW.

Comments are visible expressions of appreciation - and much appreciated!

ika said...

thank you, this means a lot to me since i have bad relationship with my neighbor..oh no...

Anonymous said...

First time commentor here. I dont know you or this blog.... and let me say up front that I resonate with your message here. I like what you are saying, and I join my "amen" with the chorus....

The rub is that I dont know if you want rich, stimulating, critical engagement or fan-club style accolades. I am more intereted int the former, though most bloggers I know are more interested int the latter. And I do not with to be ugly or argumentative. But I am always looking for someone of a similar ability at critical enjagement to interact with honestly, which is rare.

With that bit of intro out of the way, let me add an element, that I believe will sharpen up your thoughts a bit, and invite you to respond in a way that will sharpen mine up as well.

The whole "Love" thing is paramount, I agree fully. If we get nothing else right, this is both enough and necessary. It is TOP priority. However you said that "The primary way that God's agape love is made visible to the world today is not through Christ, whom they cannot see, but through us! The church..."

Not taking anything away from your overarching point in the least, let me suggest that contrary to this particular statement, when you, I and the world see the church, THAT IS JESUS WE ARE SEEING. Look into some "image of god" theology and scriptures such as in Paul where the church is described as "The Body of Christ" -Eph/Col particularly.

We are Jesus to a large extent. He is the Head, but we, communally, are Him in bodily visible form. And unless we have the spirit of God in us, we are an idol that we ourselves worship, but that the world recognizes as impotent. Our LOVE will be the manifestation of His spirit, or something like that, I am sure.

Think on it. I would love to see your engaging response. I will check back to see....

Hey, many blessings on you...

Blogger formerly known as Messianic Gentile

Chris HH said...

Welcome friend,

I appreciate all genuine comments on this blog.

If people agree with what I write or like the way I say it, it's nice to know that - but if what I have written is unclear or they disagree with what I say, it's great to receive the wisdom of others or host an edifying debate on the subject that sharpens both sides.

I'd be happy to engage you in such a debate, but to be honest I don't disagree with what you have written. The church is here to reflect, and indeed be, Christ to the world. Luke at the start of the book of Acts says that his former book, his gospel, was about all that Jesus began to do and teach, clearly indicating that the acts of the apostles and the church were the continuation of the works of Christ on the earth.

However I don't see there is a discrepancy between my statement, "The world does not see Christ, it sees us," and your statement, "When the world sees the church it sees Christ," any more than I see a discrepancy between John's statement, "No one has seen the Father," and Jesus statement, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." One statement is about direct observation, the other about indirect revelation.

So perhaps my statement would have been more clearly written as...

The primary way that God's agape love is made visible to the world today is not through Christ directly, whom they cannot see, but through us - who display Christ and his love!

Anonymous said...

Chris!! Thanks for responding....

This is pretty much the kind of thing I was looking for. Debate? sure, I figure it can be called that, though it sounds either too formal or to heated in so many contexts. And like you, I am not in some major disagreement mode.
Rather I am looking for a critical engagement, a sharing that sharpens both us and others who read and/or jump in.

The statement you edited at the end is good. If you had worded it thusly to begin with, we would not be in the present discusion. I would be fully in tune with it is it now stands. However, having gone through this exercize this far... I would say that it does not seem to have fully enveloped my offering either.

Again, thanks for playing and for not taking this as a personal attack. I am criticizing you, and we have no background from which to work, except a common love for Jesus and a seemingly common desire to speak clearly for Him. I am the one who out of the blue puts that background to the test by criticizing you which you are handling with more grace than I might have. I commend you!

Back to the point at hand... You bring up an interesting observation from Luke/Acts. The "began..." statement alludes to continuing work which leads the reader to watch unfold through the church (what Paul calls His Body). Rightly so. But keep unpacking...! Keep following the Spirit, you know like a detective drama that "follow[s] the money". How about I suggest that Acts chapter 2 is a quasi 3rd account of Creation. Genesis 1 gives an account. Genesis 2 gives a second account, (and actually there are several others in scripture but for brevity's sake) let us say Acts 2 gives us a 3rd.

We have the main ingredients being mixed together by the Creator God of the Jews in all three. Gen one gives a comprehensive view of Creation in 6 days. On the 6th day, God creates his crowning acheievement - humankind! His image bearer. This "God-mirror", if you will, is a lynch-pin that holds all the rest in place. As long as the mountains, trees, oceans, birds, cows and dolphins can properly see God's image reflected in this creature that is part earth stuff/part heaven stuff, then all is well.

Gen 2 gives an intimate account of day 6 activities. In this account, a body is formed from the dirt and God's own breath/wind/spirit is blown into the body bringing it allive!

Now, skipping over all the other recreation tales in between, for there are many, we come to Jesus. And Jesus, as Paul will say, is the "Last Adam" or we might say, the final version with the kinks worked out. This image bearer really bears the image. This God-mirror is not cracked. And when He finally becomes coronated (a concept largely lost on we Americans) on a Roman cross, He fully and completely reveals God to the world. He sets the world right! Suddenly, resurrection comes to play in God's good Creation, because it sees God in this one TRUE HUMAN. But He ascends to Heaven and Luke bounces sparks off of Gen 2 with Acts 2 where we see a new body formed in an upper room and a mighty rushing breath of God comes blowing in.

AAAAHHH!!!! The church is the new human! The image bearer! Suddenly, we are close enough to God's eye to touch it!

I meet people all the time who talk as if God cannot be seen or known in the world today. I profoundly disagree with them. We have the image bearer - the church! Are there still flaws? Well, the great inquisition is a huge blight on this bride, but mysteriously, God is expressing Himself through her all the same.

So, your statement as now edited is much more clearly true. But the unclarity of the previous one opened the door for this much fuller observation.

Please tell me what you think? I think I am onto something special here, but I really don't find others who talk about it like this. I am only one man. A novice biblical scholar at that... My view is limited, but I want to share it and be engaged with it desperately. Thank you for indulging me.

Blessings...

Blogger formerly known as Messianic Gentile

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I had to take a short break earlier, but I also wish not to remain so anonymous. My name is Mike Exum. I no longer write blogs, but I have several old ones. If you wish to investigate me further look up mikez-blog.blogspot.com. By going into the blog list on the side and the profile page, you should be able to find all my blog thoughts - more than you will want to read! But you might also check out Hurricane Willie Peppers from the blog list. It also is mine, and focuses more on the topic at hand.

But this is really not an attempt to advertise myself. Honestly. Read me or not, I dont care. But I want to offer my self openly so as not to make you feel sucker punched by a stranger. Which of course, though I am a bit course, I have stated over and over here already that I do not mean to be ugly or fight....

Thanks again
Many blessings...

Blogger formerly known as Messianic Gentile

Chris HH said...

Mike,

Thanks for your comments.

You are right, there is so much more to be unpacked in the purpose of God revealing his image to the earth.

It has always been God unchanging intention to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory through men and women in his image who represent his heavenly rule on his behalf. This is the Kingdom of God and is central to Jesus' teaching. The church is the agent of the Kingdom, and full of men and women being transformed ever closer into his image, bringing themselves under his rule, and with a mandate to take the life this brings out to the ends of the earth.

So I don't know about those who disagree with you on this point, but you'll only get a hearty AMEN in these parts! ;-)

My purpose in this post was narrowed to looking at how we display one of the most fundamental aspects of the nature of God - his agape love. That's not to say that that is all there is to be said about representing God - far from it - but without that love all other activities are empty and hollow.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify for the sake of other passers-by to this blog, who wouldn't take the time to stop and question.

Every blessing.

AmeriKan said...

Chris,

This idea of God's love is such a great mystery. Without it as you said, "all other activities are empty and hollow." Even knowledge can "puffeth up." The mystery of His love still intrigues me. I believe it is far beyond and above my finite thinking, yet, I have experienced it time and time, again, through the years. Though at other times, I sense I hardly know what it is, especially when it comes to dying to self and even "esteeming the brethren more highly than myself."

There are always life's situations and issues that are thrown at us which challenge that "love." I understand we are BEING perfected day by day, "line upon line, precept upon precept." This is the wonderful thing about the experiencial Christian life. For that love to be perfected, requires a communion and relationship, daily, with the living God and His living Word.

Thankyou, Chris, for this blog and the discussion.

Richard Bentall said...

Chris

Would it be fair to say that God's greatest attribute is LOVE ?

Richard

Chris HH said...

Richard,

To turn the question around I would say that the measure of greatness of any quality is how closely it reflects the nature of God. God is great, not because he conforms to any external standard that can be applied to him, but because in him is found the true definition of greatness. So all God's qualities must be great.

God is love (agape) and thus this kind of love is the greatest commandment, and the the greatest out of faith, hope and love.

But there are other qualities (words) that we use to describe the nature of God - e.g. holy. Is God's holiness greater than his love (or vice versa)? To ask such a question is to divide the indivisible nature of God based on our words and then try to put them into a ranked order!

But in terms of words that get a handle on God's nature and communicate that nature to us it would seem that to the Scriptures and to God himself, love comes top of the list.