By Peter Horne
I’ve attended plenty of churches that give a great deal of attention to the commands of God. I absolutely believe this is crucial to our existence. Who are we to pick and choose which of God’s commands we observe and which we disregard? However, commands exhaust us. We can give so much attention to God’s instructions that we lose sight of the reason for God’s instructions.
In the letters the apostle Paul wrote, he gave us many of God’s laws. But Paul wasn’t giving the church a legal code. He gave as many instructions as he did because of the nature of his correspondence. He wrote to churches that were struggling in various aspects of the Christian life and Paul needed to advise and correct them. But personally, Paul’s motivation for living according to God’s commands wasn’t the existence of the commands, or the threat of dreadful consequences if the broke the commands. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul shares that “Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all.”
The Contemporary English Version translates this verse as “We are ruled by Christ’s love for us.” We’re not ruled by rules, but by the love God, in Christ, has demonstrated toward us. The apostle John makes a similar statement in 1 John 4. I summarize the message of the chapter as “God loves us. We love God. Therefore, we love others, particularly our spiritual brothers and sisters.” God’s love for us involved action on his part. Likewise, for our love to be genuine we must act lovingly toward God and others. Loving others means making a positive difference in the lives of those around us.
I believe Paul and John provide great summaries of the Love Commands Jesus gave his followers:
- The Great Command – Love the Lord your God. (Matthew 22:37-38)
- The Second Command – Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)
- A New Command – Love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Loving others includes, but is not limited to, meeting the physical and emotional needs of those we encounter. But the greatest need any of us have is for our spiritual needs to be met. 2 Cor. 5:14 tells us that Christ’s love compels us to share God’s love for the world, with the world, because we’re convinced that Jesus died for EVERYONE.
In addition to three objects of Love, I propose three key words that begin with “R” that help us recognize how God wants us to love our neighbors. I believe that we find all these terms referenced in 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2.
In 5:17 we’re to understand the transformation that takes place when God takes control of our lives. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” Even in the here and now, God’s presence brings necessary RENEWAL. Of course, God’s ultimate plan for history is to “make everything new.” (Rev 21:5a)
5:18-20 is all about RECONCILIATION. God renewed us so that we can be reconciled to Him. We can enter his presence, and his family as new creation with a clean slate. The offense our sins caused has been removed so we can be reconciled to God. We also have a responsibility to take that message to the world.
Finally, in 6:1-2 we see that Renewal, and Reconciliation both come as a by-product of God’s salvation, RESCUE. “Now is the day of rescue.”
“LR-Cubed” is just a little outline I’ve created to help Lawson Rd focus upon some key words to direct our mission as a church. There are other important theological words that begin with the letter “R”, but I hope we can agree that these particular concepts are very important for Christians to embody. Grouping them together like this reminds us that there are many ways to consider our relationship with God.
I leave you now with one final passage that demonstrates these three messages: Titus 3:3-8.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us [Rescue], not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit [Renew], whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life [Reconciled]. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.