Friday, January 4, 2013

Day Four: Charity

The WORD of the Day:

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 
--Romans 5:6-8

Let Me Give You a Lift:

This often quoted passage by the apostle Paul has one of the great juxtapositions of the Bible summed up in a single passage: the greatness of God and the imperfection of those He gave His son to save.  For a free people, many of whom He knew would reject this amazing gift, He gave it anyway. Although this passage can certainly make a person feel humble, that's for tomorrow's post.  Here I want to focus on something else.  I want to focus on God's kind of love.  It's the kind of love he shows us, and it's the kind of love he expects us to show others. Simply put, it's charity.

In his book Mere Christianity (which you will often see me quote, as it is a favorite), C.S. Lewis notes that the reason we have such a hard time comprehending God's unchanging love is because we think of love in terms of a feeling rather than an act of will.  As humans understand the word, love comes and goes--people fall in and out of love all the time.  Of God's love, Lewis says: 
"But the great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins [that come between man and God] at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."  
The closest analogue we have to love that is relentlessly determined for the good of another is parenthood. Ever been loved by a parent when you knew you didn't deserve it? Ever loved your child when they were being abhorrently unlovable? Then you've seen a glimpse of this kind of love.

But how do we show this kind of love to others? How do we show it to those who are not our children or other loved ones, and sometimes to those we don't even think worthy of it?  What does God's love look like in practice? Of that, Lewis says this: 
"love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feeling but of will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people."
And there is the long and short of it.  Every person is a self, a being created in the image of God. I love myself. That's not to say I don't have days where I dislike myself (sometimes I really dislike myself, honestly) but I am always striving to do what is best for myself. That effort and desire for the good of self is what we are called to show to other "selfs" in this world. We do not need to have warm fuzzy feelings about every other person we come across. But we are called to desire what is best for other people, and to act on that desire where we are able. The funny thing about "acting" love, though, is that very often the feeling follows. That is why, when it comes to the Christian kind of love, it gets easier with practice. (We have to be careful because the opposite is true too, that the more hatefully we treat people, often the more hatefully we feel about them. The first act of love we show some people might simply be showing them kindness instead of contempt. For our own good!)

When you think about it, this kind of "will" love really puts into perspective God's love for us.  I can't imaging that God has warm fuzzy feelings for me when I'm in the wrong, just as I don't have warm fuzzy feelings for myself, or for my son when he is acting up.  But in all things God desires the ultimate good for us. It's why even though we are flawed, even though we stumble, even though we crucified His son, he loves us still.  We are all his "selfs."

Give it a Listen:

Today's song is one by Casting Crowns called “Who Am I”. The idea behind this song is that every life is fleeting, and every person stumbles through it just a bit. But we are all precious because we are God's creation and beloved.

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