Thursday, June 4, 2009

For the Love of . . .

I think it was Big Bird who said, "Everyone . . . is always talking about love." He then promptly added, "Yuck." He was right. Everyone does talk about love.

And rightfully so. What it all boils down to is love. And it's precisely what God requires of us.

Those of us who like to debate theology and promote our beliefs can sometimes forget that. And those of us who like to emphasize overcoming sin and reaching perfection - yours truly included - sometime betray ourselves by neglecting this important component.

I was delighted to read, when I first came across Colossians 3:14, how important love is in the pursuit of perfection. As Paul writes, "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how I keep the letter of the law to a "T," so long as I am neglecting love. Quite simply: no love, no perfection.

Unfortunately, as often happens, when we get quite zealous about our beliefs, our opinions, our understanding, we can get downright nasty (this, of course, is true of people on either side of the debate - including me). I am not implying, as many seem to suppose, that saying someone is wrong necessarily means you are being unloving towards him or her. But I will admit that there are times when many of us lose the "love" part of perfection. As John McVay asks, "What if victory in theological disputes were judged by the Christlike behavior of the disputants rather than the ferocity of the rhetoric?" He then adds, "And who's to say it isn't?"

I have had a number of people remind me of that all-important principle of love when I am emphasizing the importance of beliefs or doctrines. They are right, of course. In the end, love is what really matters. Christ calls us to love. He says it is non-negotiable.

But let's allow love, as the Bible treats it, to have its full place at the table. Because, as much as the Bible - and specifically Jesus - talks about loving our fellow human beings, we are also invited to love the truth. In fact, loving the truth seems to be an integral part in determining if one is saved or not. The same Paul who writes about the importance of agape love in the pursuit of perfection also informs us that those who are lost will be so "because they did not receive the love [agape] of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thess 2:10). What happens with these people is that, instead of receiving the love of the truth, they are swept away with deception.

Elsewhere, Paul achoes this idea in the great "Love Chapter" when he says that "love . . . rejoices in the truth" (1 Cor 13:6).

So truth - and a love for that truth - does seem to matter to God. And He places a premium on human beings pursuing that truth.

Now, I have had many people tell me - especially recently - that "truth" has its place but, utlimately, it is not going to really matter if we have the correct information or not. After all, there are so many ambiguities in the Bible - which people have argued over for centuries - and God doesn't expect us to have all the right answers. Others have also expressed the sentiment that God is not going to ask us if we "believe in the Trinity," or whether we can "explain the 2300 days accurately" or whatever other particular doctrine they seem to be upset about or unconvinced of.

Maybe not. And maybe God doesn't expect us to have all the answers before we can be translated (then again, maybe He does). But what He does require of us is to at least (a) believe that there is absolute truth and (b) have a love for that truth. Anything less than that will result in us being swept away with deception.

But God doesn't simply expect us to have a love for the truth for truth's sake. This is not an arbitrary requirement He places upon us. He understands that a love for the truth and a love for our fellow man are inseperable. So, no, God may not ask us at the Pearly Gates, "Explain the postlapsarian view of the nature of Christ," but He will be able to tell whether we know the information based on how we act. So, essentially, our beliefs will be reflected in our behavior and how we treat others (and Him). This is why He has such a huge concern for truth - and that we not only have a love for it, but an understanding of it.

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