Friday, February 29, 2008

do you love me?

I guess of all the questions that face us in our lives as followers of Jesus, this one question is perhaps the most powerful and potent for us, the one Jesus asked Peter as he gently reinstated the one who had denied him three times: Do you love me?

This is a most searching question, if we face it squarely and honestly. It is one that searches our hearts and motives to find what makes us tick, what animates and drives us. In one way or another we live or die, or fail to live well, because of our love life.

There are different kinds of human love, and each of them have their place and are wonderful as gifts from God. They all elicit commitment, respect and response to each other, as loved ones: a mother to her baby and children, a father to his family, a husband to his wife and vice-versa, siblings to each other, as well as friends to each other. These things are all good and important in their rightful place.

In Richard Foster's fine, interesting and helpful book on prayer we read this quote from Augustine: "True, whole prayer is nothing but love." (p 1). Love of God beginning with the love from God, and love of our neighbor as ourself make up the two greatest commandments which are tied together by our Lord. This love in Jesus is even to go towards our enemies in praying for and doing good to them.

Getting back to our Lord's words to Peter, we find that this reinstatement by grace of this repentant Peter, was marked by directives as to what Peter should do: "Feed my lambs." "Take care of my sheep." "Feed my sheep." And ended with words about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God, punctuated with the command to simply follow Jesus: "Follow me!" This was all given both to help Peter to a deeper heart repentance and love, as well as obedience in expressing that love to others.

As we really consider our love life in God through Christ, bringing all our loves into that light, then those loves can begin to take their proper place. They will be better than ever because underlying them will be the love of the Lord which not only never grows old, but never dies.

Of course we're so utterly dependent and needy and our emotional life rises and wanes, especially when we're tired, or face the challenges and griefs of a fallen world. But this love of God lived out in our relationships and in the world, is what will win out in the end. A love in Jesus that takes up the cross and follows to the end, no matter what. A love because of Jesus that is destined to take over the world. The love of God which never will know any end forever.

What would you add to this? Or any thought.


L.L. Barkat said...

This warmed my heart, especially when you mentioned that prayer is nothing but love. Of course I immediately thought about how this year brought the inception of Love Notes to Yahweh. Prayer expressed in words of love.

And that's a good question, as you note. Do you love me? Too many times I have to answer, "Teach me to love You."

The Walk said...

Good post. Beautiful and thought provoking words. I'll have to chew on them for a while.

Betsy Lin said...

These are good words. You words about bringing all our loves into light reminds me of the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken- great book about love, and finding grace- he writes a piece about the shining barrier and for some reason thats what I thought of when reading this post- weird I know!

I am currently learning that I love only because I can trust God- and that God is the only One who can truly love me correctly. My value and worth come from Him alone, and not from words or affection from others- a tough lesson to learn being a single 23 year old girl! : )

Anonymous said...

oh i just love God's love!!!!
it is sooooo wonderful and full and more than anything and beyond understanding, a command because i can not understand it or how important it is and because i am s broken self centered human that need it to be a command, and God's love is the greatest thing ever that we can have and we are so blessed to have it!

this is the best blog post ever!

God loves you soooo much! so much!
God loves us all...everyone!
Praise God!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, and your Love Notes to Yahweh are wonderful, and a good example of this.

Yes, "Teach me to love you," is so profound in itself. Little do we know how much we need to learn on that, I'm sure.

Ted M. Gossard said...

The Walk,
Thanks. I need to chew on this, too.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Betsy Lin,
Thanks for sharing those words, good for all of us.

I need to read that book. And as you say, God's love alone is the perfect love, though he does call us to love each other as he in Christ has loved us. We have plenty to learn and grow in, in that.

Good for you to know that his love alone is what makes you so special. And also worthy for another, or for God's special will for you in this world.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for your good words of praise and instruction.

Yes, I believe every word you say, but so slow of heart to really get it, and seem slower yet to really live in it. Yet that love is present for us in Jesus and closer to us than the air we breathe, all the time. We just don't seem to have much capacity for taking it in.

Reminds me of the Ephesians 3 prayer that we might know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, and so be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.