Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Love Isn’t Inoffensive

Dear friends, since God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another
.” 1 John 4:11

Allow me to speak to believers for a moment or two. This is important, at least as it speaks directly to my own heart. You be the judge whether it speaks to your heart as well.

As believers, we get it. The words of the Apostle John make it very easy to grasp. We understand that God is love and whoever does not love does not know God.

Easy enough, right?

We are constantly reminded of this. The secular world demands we love them by accepting their choices. The religious world reminds us that it is by love that those outside the circles of believers will know we are disciples of Christ.

Love. It’s the keynote word of the era in which we live. Yet, it is one of the most abused words of our day. At least in God’s eyes. Hopefully in ours as well.

Love isn’t sensuality.

Love isn’t tolerance.

Love isn’t physical attraction.

Love isn’t making excuses for sin.

Love isn’t protecting sin from consequences.

Love isn’t a wink. A smile. Or even a nod in agreement or acceptance.

Love doesn’t always make others feel good about themselves.

Think about that for a moment before you stop reading thinking I’m presenting some form of heresy.

Love drives a mother to stop her child from touching a hot stove. She offends the child’s free will in order to protect that little one.

Love causes a parent to drop everything and frantically run to rescue a little one from oncoming traffic. Again, love offends that child’s free will to cross the street.

A close friend will intervene in your life to prevent you from making a collosal error. That friend’s love may not be seen as loving at the moment, but the ultimate outcome will prove his/her love.

To put it bluntly: Love. Isn’t. Inoffensive.

It is along these lines that John reveals the divine love that is intended to reach out to others through the life of every believer:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11 emphasis added)

You see, to say we love God is not based on feeling. It’s not love as we normally would use the word. How did God show His love among us? He sent His one and only Son into the world … as an atoning scrifice for our sins.

God’s greatest expression of love is not a pretty picture. It’s an offensive scene. It’s a horrifying tapestry woven with bleeding wounds, broken flesh, excruciating pain, ferocious suffering, crushing weight of sin, blasphemy, rejection, and mockery.

Yet God is love. He is the essence of love. Holding nothing back. Going to the greatest degree of sacrifice as He chose the cross to be the perfect expression of His love.

Are we people of inoffensive love? Or, are we people of the offensive cross?

Love that lacks the cross is meaningless and weak. It’s a carnal, feel-good love that satisfies the flesh and emotion. Crossless love is temporary and fleeting and bears no eternal hope.

Love without the cross has no backbone. It cannot stand. It is lifeless. Pale. Vanilla. Tasteless. Odorless. Self-preserving. Powerless.

Consider the 21 Christians from Egypt who recently stood firm in their faith as believers in the Messiah. Lined up, each with a black-hooded executioner stationed behind him holding a knife. [It’s so difficult to mention without tears flowing over my own sin.] Facing imminent death for the sake of the Cross of the Messiah.

ISIS is quoted as saying, “we’re chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying around the cross illusion in their heads.

The cross illusion. Hmmm… Their “illusion” wasn’t hidden under a bushel. These believers didn’t carefully choose their words of faith in a way that wouldn’t offend their executioners. They knew they were about to be persecuted and die for their faith yet they never changed their confession.

The cross they carried in their heads had shaped these men’s hearts. Their lives bore witness to the very end. They were willing to pay the ultimate price to declare the love of Christ.

They died for carrying the offensive cross. For identifying with offensive love. The love of God who gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice.

When will we pick up our cross and obediently follow Jesus?

When will we lay down our self-preserving pseudo-love and boldly proclaim the love of God represented in the offensive cross?

When will the Body of Messiah mold its love for mankind into the shape of God’s love for us?

Pure love. Blameless love. Cross-shaped love. The only cure for pain and suffering in this life. The only remedy for sin. The only lifeline thrown out to mankind to rescue him from drowning.

Are we people of inoffensive love? Or, are we people of the offensive cross?

Ann Voskamp said, “Rip the cross out of the heart of love and you kill the power of love.”

“For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the Cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool.But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, the Cross is nothing short of God’s power.” 1 Cor. 1:18

I want to be a people of the offensive cross, carrying around the cross in my head as it continues to mold and shape my heart, motivate my hands and guide my feet.

Let’s pray that we don’t live lives of cheap grace but of costly Christianity. No more settling to live a safe or comfortable life, but one of cross-shaped Love!

(c) 2015 Jan Ross
All Rights Reserved

Note: Inspired by Ann Voskamp’s article The Wake-Up Call from ISIS: Who in the Church is Answering?



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