Monday, February 7, 2011

Love Re-Imagined - with a little help from our friends

Well, the first double has come and gone, and I'm still processing, but deeply encouraged by the God-life, community-buy-in, creative color and people growth
that it brought with it. There are few things like a community responding to God's leading together in faith! It's always better together. In the words of the Beatles, 'we get by with a little help from our friends.'

Talking of friends, I've loved preparing the series with a little help from my friends. Some of those friends are here in the church with us and they're going to be co-teaching with me. Others are no longer alive. One of those 'friends' is John Calvin. His 1546 commentary has been incredibly helpful to me. Surprisingly readable. In those times any book needed a benefactor. Calvin’s was Lord Burgundy,and in his intro letter thanking his benefactor, he says,“I am so confident of the quality of my work that I want to warn you when you read it not to get carried away ion your affection for me!” I’m not as confident as Calvin but I’m pretty sure you’re going to find this series helpful,whether you are watching from afar, or up close in the community. (we now have sermon series up on vimeo!)

John Stott said that our culture blinds deafens and dopes us, and I think that is particularly true when it comes to the word Love. It's been corrupted and cheapened by our culture. We use the same word love for the way we feel about our dog, our iphone, our wife/husband, our God and our favorite taco stand.(sometimes in that order!) 1 Corinthinas 13 serves as a beautiful catalyst in helping us to re-imagine love. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not easily angered, it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the never fails."

It's a stunning piece of poetry. It is virtually impossible to live up to though, because it describes the way that God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit love one another. Love is the language of the Tri-Une God. God has many attributes, but the whole essence of his character is distilled into 3 words:God is love.

This passage is like a lens through which we view God. His character comes into sharp focused definition. God is not only loving to Himself. He is loving to His creation. The most often quoted self – description of God is ‘The Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate one , slow to anger and abounding in love.” The most powerful demonstration of his loving nature was to give his only Son. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved explained it simply and profoundly. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave his only Son for us."

But the passage is not merely a description of God that we admire. It serves as a lens through which we view our lives as Christ followers.. “Follow the way of love” is how Paul lands the love passage. Make no mistake, Love is poetic and romantic and we want to celebrate that. But its far more than an emotion or a sentiment. I often hear people say, ‘I’m just not feeling it.” Biblical love is most truly tested when we’re not feeling it. The last time I checked, no father ever felt like giving His innocent, only son to die at the hands guilty men.

So, we're going to spend a bit of time looking at how Paul embodies this gutsy, practical love to the church in Corinth, and how with God's help, we can re-imagine, and follow through with the same love. After all, its convincing proof to a watching world.
"By this shall all men know that you're my disciples, that you love one another."


  1. Biblical love is most truly tested when we’re not feeling it - a stunning statement

    Thanks Alan. As ever, challenged and encouraged by your writing and still keen for you to come over to Dublin again if and when you are able or see it in God


  3. Al, through your writing I feel a deep and continuous challenge, urging me forward into more of God. You are an inspiration and your words a joy to read. So grateful to have walked closely with you. I love gutsy, practical love, and your lens onto that love will be profound! Looking to more of this, my friend. BTW, take me to Dublin with you!



  4. Hey V, thanks so much, bro.Would love to have a pint or two of guinness with you there! I know you've always loved that place.
    Have so enjoyed journeying with you too.
    You're a good friend with a wise head and a soft heart.
    much love

  5. Two points to consider:

    (1) You said: The most often quoted self – description of God is ‘The Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate one , slow to anger and abounding in love.”

    I think if you do a search of the scriptures you will actually find that the self-references as "creator" or as the one "who created the heavens and the earth" are the most often quoted self-description.

    (2) You said: John Stott said that our culture blinds deafens and dopes us

    What many Christians fail to consider is how traditions of men that are contrary to the word of God have exactly that same effect. A case in point - you wrote: "John, the disciple whom Jesus loved explained… " even though the facts in scripture can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Apostle John was not the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved". Those who repeat what they are taught WITHOUT searching the scriptures to see if those things are so (the Berean method that was praised in Acts) continue to promote the false John tradition -- despite the fact that they cannot quote a single verse that would justify teaching that idea. has a free eBook that compares scripture with scripture to highlight facts in the plain text of scripture that are usually overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. Those who are willing to subject their beliefs to biblical scrutiny may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that the study cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to take seriously the admonition “prove all things”.

    In scripture we see that Jesus' own words indicate that it is unsafe to simply assume the traditions of men are true. Still, one has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else's moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to a case of The Bible vs. Tradition, sometimes one has to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture.

    Interestingly, the FIRST false that was spread among the brethren in what would become the church was actually a false teaching ABOUT THAT PARTICULAR DISCIPLE -- see the false rumor among the brethren that said that "this disciple would not die", which the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" reports in the last chapter of his gospel.

    While many are content to simply repeat the traditions of men, a better Bible study method is the method of the Bereans, who searched the scriptures to see the things that they were taught were so. I'll leave it there and hope this helps.

  6. Dear Bk, I honor you for your quest for youth and biblical fidelity.
    You obviously value highly the need to weigh what is preached the biblical text.
    This is noble. I urge you to add to this the quality of the bereans that they not only searched the scriptures but received the word with joy when they found it to be true. They were not theological watchdogs.
    You seem to have missed then main point of what I wrote because you disagree with what really a minor detail in my blog.
    I fear you have strained a gnat and swallowed a camel.
    Is it possible that you might be totally right in your facts and yet have missednthe life and grace of the gospel altogether?

  7. Hi Alan
    Not to be gnattish - intrigued by the 1Cor passage as the trinitarian love-lens! I'm busy with a long series on the trinity and the implications for us as "image-bearers" - the love aspect is another vein to explore and mine, or, perhaps more expressively, an avenue to wander down and sight-see!
    Love your heart!

    ps. Dublin is only a stone's throw from us!!