Give Yourself to Others …

Archive for October 2008

I don’t want you to misunderstand the point I’m about to make.  I agree there is value is discussion about the meaning to the Text.  It’s an important part of growing in understanding and maturity of our faith.

But, I also believe there is a limit to such value.  Often this limitation becomes even stronger as the vigor of any given position increases.  Here’s why:

In an ultimate sense, when we debate/discuss what the Text means, we are debating what the proper doctrine should be.  Another way to say that is “we’re debating what is right and what is wrong.”  In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that, but such discussions often lead us to judge the faith of other believers.

And the Text itself says we should not be judging the faith of other believers, only God is their judge.

After all, to condemn someone with whom I disagree on some doctrinal matter is to disregard two things:

  1. it is tantamount to imposing a new law on someone, when Jesus repeated said he came to do away with Law as an approach to finding righteousness before God.
  2. by implication, it says what God has forgiven me of is less significant than what he has forgiven you of — which is an absurd position.
After all, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  So, it is irrelevant that God may have forgiven me of different things than he’s forgiven you of.
We are both forgiven.  And we’ve both been forgiven a lot.
And that forgiveness is evidence of how much God loves us.  And Jesus said we’re to love the way he loved us.  If that is the standard, then what doctrinal view is it that you might hold that would make me not love you and try to treat you with as much love as Jesus did?
There should be nothing that can separate you from me — because there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.
That is the limit of doctrinal debates.

My preoccupation with loving others the way Jesus loved me began many years ago, but it started small and just kept percolating until it boiled over.

A young friend asked me how I keep the focus on that issue.
I don’t claim any special revelations or special insights.  I took note of the point many years ago — probably in my 20’s — but I successfully ignored its complete implications until only the last few years.
My wife and I are in our late 50’s, and partially as a result of our age, partially for other reasons, we mentor a number of individuals and couples in their 20’s and 30’s.  We’re also active in the marriage ministry of the congregation where we worship.
What constantly grabs our attention is how many relationship issues are driven by one person not doing what the other person thinks he/she should be doing.  That is, individually, we impose our view of things on what others should do.  That’s a truly selfish point-of-view.
I’ve become personally convinced that self-centeredness is at the core of sin.  That’s where we get off track.
Even in our view of salvation — because to convince myself that I’m right with God, I want you to see spiritual things exactly the same way I see them.  That way, we can both be more confident that we’re okay with God.
But, God says we stand before him individually, not as a group.  And when we stand before him, we’ll all be guilty.  None of us deserve salvation.  None of us has a right to salvation.  But God loves us and forgives us.  And that makes us okay with God.
My failures may be similar or different from yours, but either way, we’re both failures.
So, all I can do is try — try to love others the way Jesus loves me.
And I have to think about that everyday, with every person, in every situation.  It’s really a complete pre-occupation.

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