Love Commands?!!

Can I tell you honestly from the start that God is a God Who invites?

He offers INVITATION to believe, the LOVING, Living True God of the Bible is in fact Who He says He is, both in His Word and via millions of believers’ experience through the ages.

English musicologist, composer, organist, pastor and religious hymnody genius Erik Routley reportedly said that the worst of the evangelistic music sounded like a command to conform while the best of it sounded like an invitation to believe.

Yes and Amen.

Who among us, myself included, doesn’t favor an invitation over a command?!!

Causing people to be uncomfortable, to squirm, to be repulsed at either myself or any message or lyric I bring isn’t anywhere NEAR to what I would call “having a good time”! Trust me, if and when it happens it gives me no pleasure to cause discomfort. Then again, at times it is essential just as it is essential for -me- to be discomforted when God via others or directly, brings truth and correction my way.

Granted, we prefer an invitation.

We are in a day when it is nearly intolerable for both people of faith and nearly equally, full-on atheists to hear anything of commandments, whether ten, two -or any.

Indeed, we read things like the following all through the Book:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” John 3.17

Over and over we recognize the compassion and desire of God, that “Gracious and merciful is the LORD, slow to become angry, and overflowing with gracious love.” Ps. 145.8

Then things like this pop out: “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ Ezekiel 33.11

Note here he is calling His Own chosen people “wicked” and calling them out for -their- evil ways as a loving father would his son or daughter that he truly cares about!

Oops. Negative stuff within… where’s the exit, ‘eh? I hear that and have said it myself.

Then we also read (“it says, it also says”) “Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent” Acts 17.30

A command is of course, not an option though one almost always has the practical option to disobey.

Um, there’s another word you see all through the Bible including New Testament, Jesus’ Own words, apostle Paul, Peter, John, James, on and on. Stuff about obedience and disobedience to the Lord Himself is clear… too clear. We don’t like such language or implication that there is someone whom we must obey in a love-based relationship. But there it is.

I have quoted the following here before, but it is so core to a follower of Jesus that it must be quoted again:

Jesus:

**John 14**

v. 15 “If you love me, keep my commands.”

v. 23, 24 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

v. 31 (Jesus speaks of the coming of the devil and finishes by saying the following)- “that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

**John 15**

v. 9, 10 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

v. 14 “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

v. 17 “This is my command: Love each other.”

I can hear the reader thinking: “Of COURSE, Christ’s command is to LOVE people, sheesh!! End of story dude!” Yes. And the rest of His deeds, words and the words of the New Testament writers unpack what love is and is not. Guess what? Love and obedience to God in genuine, daily relationship are so linked throughout the Book one cannot separate the one from the other and have either. Read that again please.

All of this sounds like law, like… well, like a COMMAND we are all (including me) plenty self-centered and fully rebellious enough to break. Which, in part, is why Jesus came as the perfect, sinless Lamb of God “Who takes away the sins of the world” as John the baptist so graciously stated. We don’t earn God’s love by commandment. Neither do we love Him or others by ignoring or breaking them.

God IS love. God the Son Who is LOVE COMMANDS -and in fact has every right to.

Genuine fellowship with Father, Son, Spirit are not only a matter of faith, but active, loving obedience.

Trust me, like you I sin daily. I also repent daily and seek Him daily for the grace to grow in His grace and love for both Him and others.

THIS is core to a walk rather than mere talk.

Active grace always includes active love, repentance and obedience.

Things to consider. And as always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Love Commands?!!

  1. Thanks! This has me on thought freight train recently:

    “the worst of the evangelistic music sounded like a command to conform while the best of it sounded like an invitation to believe.”

    This has helped clarify a bit in my brain what is wrong with much of Christian art in the last 50 years or so. Before I get to my harsh analogy, let preface by saying I think much of the Christian art I am speaking of here has the best of intentions and most likely comes from a heart that _wants_ to serve and honestly, sincerely believes it is. And it is very likely that is good enough for God and as such should be good enough for me.

    But I always want artists to think more, work harder, create more with how God creates than how we think we _should_ create, to open up and be vulnerable. I think this gets to why Christian art is quite often so “bad”. And as I always say, it gets to why there is _any_ bad art, not just bad Christian art.

    But at a very basic level, much Christian art has a lot in common with pornography. What I mean by that is that what makes pornography pornography and not art, is that it come already laden with meaning. It is not an invitation to a richer understanding, exploration, or even ponder a question, it is not open or vulnerable. It is what it is and does not want to be more. It would likely be undermined if it were more.

    When someone paints a painting and then writes “John 3:16” somewhere on the work, that is defining the work, telling the viewer “This is what this means. Dare not make it mean anything else”. I know we want things to be certain in an age that values certainty. But that is not art, that is a lecture.

    The best religious art we can think of from Church history was that kind of art, even the best iconography, in the way your quote suggests.

    So even God’s command to love is about creating, in collaboration with God, an invitation to love more. In a very real sense, Love commands love. To love at all commands that we love more. Which is why we would be a liar if we say we love God but hate our neighbour. In this sense God’s command to love is as such an expectation, a cause and effect.

    Thanks, Glenn. You are more valuable to me than you can know.

    Joe

    • Joe, first off, YOU are more important to me than YOU know! No kidding, I smile when I see your name in my inbox knowing there will be care, depth and thoughtful wrestling in words and concepts. You are a gift to me and so many others, thanks for writing in your blog and here.

      So I am 99 percent in agreement with your comments above. I will add just a bit for consideration-

      Though I truly agree, the flawed me (“us”, each and all) often interpret art, any form, mode, work or series of artistic offerings subjectively. That is to say as you of course know and have said that the beholder also brings themselves to the work and may or may not share another’s (or another group’s) judgment on the given artwork. This is where things get very dicey indeed.

      Yes, E. Routley’s amazing quote (which I likely botched in terms of verbatim) holds a LOT of water -yet I have often pondered something else worth thinking on:

      Did Jesus fully/only/always speak in parables, period? Consider the four Gospels and other quotes re. His words in the rest of the New Testament letters, etc.. Put another way, is ALL/EVERYTHING mystery in every case? Are there any commands in scripture? Flip it over: did Jesus ONLY command and bring hard, practical words to His listeners?

      Both/and is what I’m suggesting and I think there are plenty other analogies available.

      Those who in natural (or spiritual) personality resonate with “in-your-face” often live on “commandment and nothing left to the imagination” sort of art. Those who are of a nature to resonate with mystery, symbol, question and perhaps I would say, more suggestive rather than blatantly directive art want that.

      Over the years I have come to the conclusion that neither is superior but rather “by all means that I might save SOME” in terms of God’s view. The church (me, you, the wide group of Christ-followers) often think otherwise and camp in our favorite glade…

      IS art that calls for deeper consideration re. symbol/metaphor intrinsically better, of higher value in reality? Yes, for some, many, yes!! IS simplistic in-your-face one-dimensional art of higher value in reality? Yes, for some, many, yes!!

      What gets us all in trouble *in my view* are at least 3 things:

      -The artist’s own conception and ability in the work

      -The beholder’s own conception (what they bring in mind and heart via valuing) of the work

      -This or that group’s shared conception as to the value or lack of it re. a particular artwork

      It matters not if you are a serious believer or hardcore unbeliever, it seems to me that these three are a true “one size fits all”.

      My thoughts for what they are or are not worth 🙂

      Love and thanks Joe! You, in my view, are a gem! -Glenn

      • Great points and I agree with all of them. Of course you know me well enough to know this, but just to be clear, I am not a high art or Modern art snob. I love representational as well as abstract work and even much low brow.

        I’m also not as hung up on “bad” art, either, as you know, too. I do think a lot of young artists (not just in age, but also experience) are, of course, working out their voice. What makes the Mona Lisa great is not that it is a well done portrait, but a portrait that makes us wonder about the mysteries she evokes. But not everything will be great. Some things one just has to do, simple or not, because there is no learning if there is no doing.

        The beholder! yes, a whole other and related subject! As important if not more so than the artist.

        But I do think there is as much invitational to God’s commands, the promise of something greater than ourselves when we obey, vs the commands of a dictator or computer programmer writing commands in code. And, as the prophets often demonstrated, sometimes it does take “in your face” directives to get the message across that there are some things we should do, especially if we love God. And when God commands us to love, that should make us wonder and rejoice at all the things God may do when we obey.

        Thanks, bro!
        Joe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s