Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Vast Sea of Grace - Part 1

In my last post, "Just follow the Word, right?", I simply listed several words that Jesus said and then surmised (rhetorically and sarcastically), "We just need to follow the Word and do what it says, right?" In the comments section, some of you added some more words of Jesus and also mentioned biblical words from others such as James, Paul, John, etc. This is not meant at all to spit upon or ignore any part of the Holy Word of God, as some might wrongfully infer, and while the point is probably obvious to many, for some reason it remains a hard thing for some people to understand that the point here is that walking according to the Word of God is not quite as simplistic as reading the Bible and simply doing what it says.

Let's take one of the "big" ones as an example. One of the top two commandments, not only from the Law but from the mouth of Jesus, says "You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Ok, great... I now have some instructions and I therefore know what to go and do, right? I'll just go and show some love to my neighbor. And so in churches - even churches that teach a lot of grace - we hear that what the Christian life boils down to is simply loving God and loving people. "It's really that simple..."

I know this might sound strange, but is the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus really that simple? His yoke is easy and His burden is light. But what I'm asking is, is that easiness and lightness arrived at by simply reading the Word and going and doing it? After all, the Word itself says, "Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." But is it really that simple? Is it really as simple as hearing it and then going and doing it?

Well, if we have the courage to dive below the surface of it all, it would appear that our Lord Jesus pointed out that the commandment to love others as you love yourself is really far more complicated and involved than simply showing a little love to others around you. After being asked, "And who is my neighbor?" by a man who "wanted to justify himself" (Luke 10:29), Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, which in the end points out that the definition of the man's neighbor isn't just those he has an easy time with, but also includes his enemies. The man who was beaten by thieves was a Jew, and the Good Samaritan was... a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews at the time. So not only does the definition of "neighbor" include your enemy, but Jesus said, "Go and do likewise," in regards to the good that the Samaritan did for the Jewish man.

As Bino pointed out in the comments of the last post, in Luke 18 Jesus revealed on a much deeper level the "doing" aspect of loving your neighbor as yourself. He revealed what it really means to love your neighbor as yourself. In short, the rich young ruler had claimed that he had done a good job of keeping the commandments ever since his youth (Luke 18:21), at least in his own eyes. Well, let's just say that he really had kept them all (as if!). Believe it or not, that still wouldn't be enough to satisfy a holy God! "You still lack one thing," Jesus told him. "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me."

Let's just say you've never stolen. Great! (Although, of course, as Ray Comfort points out, stealing even a paper clip still means stealing, and that makes you a Law-breaker). Let's say you've never committed adultery. Wonderful! (Although, of course, if you've ever look at someone with lust, you have committed adultery). Let's just say you've never murdered. Fabulous! (Although, of course, "whoever hates his brother is a murderer." - 1 John 3:15). But let's just say you've not broken those laws whatsoever. Have you truly "done" what the Word says? Have you truly loved your neighbor as you love yourself?

Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn't just mean helping your friend put on their new roof or helping out at the potluck or going down to the homeless shelter to feed the poor. Yes, those are great, loving things to do. But to love your neighbor as you love yourself really means emptying yourself completely - dying to yourself - and giving your entire self over to someone else in the same way that you would do it for yourself.

Pretty easy, right?

Entire "Vast Sea of Grace" Series:
Prelude: Just follow the Word, right?
The Vast Sea of Grace: >Part 1< -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4
Summaries: So close but yet so far -- Far Cry -- Be a Man

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