The Omnipotence of Love Part 2

The Omnipotence of Love Part 2

ineIn my first post on the nature of love that is all powerful, I briefly touched on the phrase that God’s love is efficacious, meaning it is effective to the end for which it is intended. In a term that goes back to the hippy drug days of the 1970s, this is heavy, extremely, insanely heavy! It is difficult for us to divorce ourselves from the modern conception of equating love with romance, with which love has very little to do. The problem with romance, other than it’s a wonderfully delightful human experience, while it lasts, is that it confuses love with emotion, as if love has to do with how we feel. This isn’t to say that love has nothing to do with feelings, only that love isn’t driven by feelings. True love, rather, is a commitment to the welfare of the other regardless of our feelings, and then in due course when faithfully rendered, results in a mutual affection of the one who loves and the beloved. That is how it reveals its omnipotent reality. We go from reluctant lovers, to those who love because we truly want to love the other person. That is Miraculous!

This kind of love’s enemy is the self, which looks for its own aggrandizement and to its feelings. To counter the unhealthy self-centered sinful self, Jesus said if we’re to follow him we must take up our cross daily and follow him. It is impossible living in light of 2,000 years of Christian history to understand how absurd, and offensive, this would have sounded to the people who first heard Jesus say it. The cross? You can imagine them thinking, what could a bloody horrible instrument of torture and death have to do with following him? It so happens everything. The only thing that could defeat death was the sacrifice of God himself in the person of Christ, thus showing us it is the principle of sacrifice that allows us to defeat the consequences of death in our fallen world. Jesus tells us this in John 12 when he is predicting his death:

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus was giving us the secret of true life when he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The thief, who is the devil, works continuously to get us to believe that getting what we want is the secret to happiness, only it isn’t. I’ve learned through trial and much error as I’ve grown older, I have no idea what I want, only what I think I want; big difference. The more important question is what do I need, and only God knows that. I learned this definitively in the fifth decade of my life when I was praying through some trying circumstances, and I would pray, “Lord, it would be ideal if . . .” One day it struck me like thunder right above my head, “How in the hell would you know what ideal is, you moron!” How stupid could I be for so long? I’ve learned being stupid comes naturally to self-centered sinners, which is why God is slowly, but surely sanctifying us, to make us less so. That prayer now had changed to, “Lord, it think it would be nice if such and so happened, but Thy will be done.” That says, I trust you, not me; you know all things, I know nothing (Rom. 8:28, all things).

So, what has this to do with love? I asked that same question in my last post as I seemed to be going off track, but I wasn’t. The essence of love is sacrifice, which is why it is the hardest thing to do in the Christian life. I learned a lesson on how stupid I was back when I was 28 years old that began, and only began, to teach me the lesson of sacrifice. I worked with a woman who just rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t the first time I worked for or with a woman who annoyed me, and I asked God, “Why do you put me in situations with people who are so annoying?” He replied, almost audibly, “To teach you to love them, you moron!” Oh, how I did not want to hear that! That means it’s not all about me? And what I want? Nope. Again, I could almost hear him say, “You have no idea what you want, only what you think you want. I know what you need. And you need annoying people in your life to teach you how to love them!”

So, when God blessed us with children, and they would come to me complaining about people at school or work or what have you, I would ask them: Why do you think this person is in your life? And they hated my answer: To teach you to learn how to love them! They didn’t want to hear that any more than I did. I’ve said that to others who are friends and family over the years, and the response is always the same. Ugh! In the second the Elisabeth Elliott podcasts I linked to in my previous post, she tells a story of a woman who had a horrible marriage. She asked the woman if she thought her husband was her enemy, and the women said yes. Then Elliott said, you know what Jesus says about loving your enemies, right? Ugh! If you listen to that story, you’ll catch something of what the phrase, the omnipotence of love, means; how love rooted in Christ and his sacrifice for us, as we practice it toward others, is inevitably efficacious.

On to part 3.

The Omnipotence of Love Part 2

The Omnipotence of Love Part 1

This is my first blog post on my new website! It is a blessing to have a website built by a professional, and a blessing I could afford it. Thank you, Kate, of CheekySkirt Media! And thank you God! Now back to business.

I had never heard the phrase the omnipotence of love before, until I saw a talk at The Elisabeth Elliot Podcast (and here is part 2). As soon as my eyes came upon those words, I thought it was brilliant! First, in case you have not heard of or are familiar with who Elisabeth Elliot is, she and her husband, Jim, were missionaries in Ecuador in the 1950s where he was killed by natives. The story was made famous by her book about their lives together called, Through The Gates of Splendor. I learned about it when I became a Christian in college, and it scared me because I always thought God wanted me to be a missionary in some remote jungle, and I didn’t want to do that! But Jim had a saying I learned back then I have never forgotten: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Indeed! I found out as my Christian life went on, I did become a missionary, but in the metaphorical jungles of our fallen world.

As I write these words, I just finished listening to part two of her talk, and she shares a miraculous story of a woman who learns to love her unlovable husband . However, it is miraculous in a way you and I do not normally understand that word. As I’ll try to explain, that makes it even more miraculous. We tend to see miracles as those happenings that transcend human experience or effort, and those of course do exist. They happened in the Bible, and they happen now, although our perspective on miracles is far too narrow and truncated. The reason is that we live by sight not by faith, and this is especially pernicious in the tyrannical secular culture of the modern world. We’ve been indoctrinated into thinking there is such a thing as the “natural” world, which is the material world we see in some way existing apart from God. Of course, we would never say that, or even think it, but it does affect how we see things.

I learned this when I came across a statement from C.S. Lewis that humbled me. He has a habit of doing that to me because he makes things obvious that I am too slow to have figured out on my own. He said that all births are every bit as miraculous as Mary’s virgin birth. Duh! Although when our daughter, our first, was born I cried out, There is a God! Somehow it was still “natural” to me. You know, I figured out how babies are made, and somehow found a woman who would marry me and cooperate, and boom, there’s a baby! But how is that not utterly miraculous! A seed we call a sperm comes out of one body, goes into another and among millions of them one gets attached to what is called an egg in another person, and whadday know, a baby pops out! It’s just “natural,” don’t ya know. Breathing is a miracle, seeing is a miracle, a tree, a cat, an apple, a thought, a muscle, dirt, everything is a miracle!

So, what in the world has all this to do with love, you ask. I don’t know! I’m still writing. Actually, it is going somewhere, which I why I changed the title to Part 1; this may take several posts. Love clearly doesn’t come naturally, pun intended, to sinners; it is not natural. I don’t think I have to convince anyone of that. In fact, it is the hardest thing we are commanded to do in the Christian life. Being “moral” is a piece of cake compared with trying to love other sinners. The reason is incurvatus in se, as Luther and Augustine put it in Latin; human beings are curved in on themselves. It’s all about me! It is sin’s proclivity to make everything about us that makes loving others so hard; it is our utterly self-centered nature that makes living out I Corinthians 13, humanly speaking, impossible. That is why it takes a miracle to do it.

Which brings me to the miracle that happened 2,000 years ago when an itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross in a small corner of the Roman Empire. It was the love of God in Christ displayed in that bloody corpse that defines the omnipotence of love. I’ll never forget the night back in February 1985 when I was introduced to Reformed theology. It was a Copernican revolution in every sense of that metaphor because my Christianity in an instant went from revolving around me, and what I did or didn’t do, or could and couldn’t do, to what God in Christ did for me! Steve, who would become my mentor, shared with me a phrase I’d never heard before. He said God’s love is efficacious, or effective; it accomplishes for its object what it intends, without fail. This is the miracle.

I will try to convey this in a couple blog posts (good luck!), but it’s really a simple concept. Love is transforming; wherever it goes, it transforms for the good. This has nothing to do with our modern conception of love as romance or feeling. How we feel about another person has absolutely nothing to do with love. In fact, we mostly love despite how we feel. Read I Corinthians 13: feelings are irrelevant. In fact, they get in the way because our feelings are always about us! What’s in it for me. I’ll explore this more in the next post, but listen to the second of Elisabeth Elliot’s talks, and specifically about the woman who learned how to truly love her unlovable husband. It’s amazing! It shows the miraculous, transforming power of true love rooted in Christ. Any other love is a poor substitute, and most certainly not omnipotent.