The Way of Love

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The Way of Love

Deuteronomy 5:22-33

Moses the Mediator of God’s Will1

These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me. When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders; and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.”

The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.” You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.

1 Peter 3:8-12

Suffering for Doing Right

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life

and desire to see good days,

let them keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from speaking deceit;

let them turn away from evil and do good;

let them seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Love and suffering go hand in hand. We preach it at weddings. We preach it at funerals. For some reason, all the great romance stories involve suffering and usually dying. I finally got around to watching Star Wars: Rogue One last night and that entire movie was focused around the concept of love and suffering together.. Alan Tudyk, one of my favorite actors played the robot “K-2SO”, and even he had a death scene as he gave his life for the “love” of his companions.

The Mosaic covenant began as God showed love for the Hebrew people by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and setting them on a path to the Promised Land. Instead of gratitude, they were fearful of that love. While that might seem weird, think about it again. When has true, deep, life-changing love ever come “naturally”. Many guys know the sheer terror of asking out a girl they really care about – fearful of rejection. Many girls get butterflies in their stomach when those guys come near them. Putting on the act and going through the motions is so much easier when you don’t really have feelings for the person with whom you are entering the relationship.

By feelings, I don’t just mean physical attraction either. It is the deeper love that calls forth the willingness to sacrifice – often the kind of love parents feel the first time they meet their newborn baby. Sure, it comes and goes with diaper changes and other messes babies make, but there is a part of it that is truly covenantal, in that it lasts until they are parted by death.

God wanted to show this kind of love to the Hebrew people, and they were terrified of what it might cost them. So they chose to hide from God. Instead of chasing after them, God, did something strange. He used Moses as an intermediary, to go between Him and the people. In a sense, Moses was supposed to carry God’s love to the people. In order to do that, Moses had to act and talk a certain way. He could no longer just be himself, because He was always representing God to the people. Moses had to change. Moses had to learn and begin to love the Hebrew people the way God did.

It was like one of those crazy Shakespearean romances where the guy playing matchmaker falls for the girl he is supposed to win over for his friend. In those type of stories conflict ensues and it either ends as a comedy or tragedy – rarely anything in between. With God however, it is a different kind of story. God actually encourages us to fall in love with the people He loves. He commands it. In fact, He helps us do it.

Jesus came as another kind of mediator between us and God, and He explained that all the laws that Moses taught could be summed up in two simple rules: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rules simply help us know how to do those two things well in different situations. But it is more than just following rules. Rules help you stay on the path, but that does not mean you will go anywhere. Real love means walking the walk, and that is where the suffering comes in. Moses suffered for the Hebrew people. Jesus suffered for us all. God continues to choose to suffer as we give our love away to people and things that do not love us back, while we ignore Him Who is Always Faithful. He does it because that is the way of love.

How have you been called to the Way of Love?

Where does fear hold you back?


  1. (Ex 20:18–21)
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Flesh and Blood

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Flesh and Blood

John 6:52–59 (NRSV)

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

The Jews in the days of Jesus probably choked when He told them they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and rightly so. Eating other people, and their blood in particular was just about the epitome of what it meant to be unclean according to the OT Law. If you take a close look at most of the OT food laws in particular, they forbid the eating of any animal that is either (a) a predator that eats raw flesh or (b) a scavenger that eats dead things. 1 It is forbidden to cook anything with the blood still in it. I believe, along with Jacob Milgrom that this was related to a abhorrence for all things related to death. When you set the food laws alongside the laws regarding funeral practices (i.e. disposal of dead human bodies) a theme begins to arise that to be clean is to be fully alive, while to be unclean is to be tainted by the presence of death in one form or another. Blood, illness, infection, all made a person unclean until they were healed.

Yes, the Jews had plenty of reasons to be freaked out by this comment by Jesus.

But I don’t think we do as Christians today.

I don’t know of a single religious person or group who has ever taken this passage literally. Even the most fundamentalist and literal readers of scripture have to deal with the fact that the body of Jesus is gone to heaven now, meaning, we cannot eat of it here. It is literally impossible to follow this teaching. Everyone starts from a place of symbolism.

Our struggle with this teaching is not about the flesh and blood, as Paul eludes. Instead we struggle with the spiritual implications. I thought Christianity was either learning about, or learning from Jesus! What is this business about eating Him?

I think there are two levels that act in concert with one another, albeit in somewhat disturbing ways. The first is just the idea of the intimacy of eating. I don’t know if the Jews had a scientific notion about how digestion actually worked, particularly to the point of understanding that we are what we eat. I’m confident though that they understood we get our strength from what we eat. What Jesus was proposing was a kind of intimacy – literally giving himself for our strength and sustenance that was unheard of then and is not much more understood today.

The second level goes back to the laws again. Along with avoiding death – especially human death, one of the most forbidden things was human sacrifice. Yet that is exactly what Jesus was. He did not offer anyone else up, He offered Himself up. How can it be ok for Jesus to do it, but not ourselves? Maybe because He was without sin. Maybe He did ask us to follow His example, laying our lives down for the sake of others. I don’t understand all of it. I just know Jesus offered up His all for me and for you, and we cannot live without Him.

What is the most intimate you have ever felt with Jesus?

Where do you need Him most today?


  1. Fish are a possible exception to this rule. 

Hungry

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My people go into exile without knowledge; their nobles are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure; the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and all who exult in her. People are bowed down, everyone is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness. Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins. Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will become rotten, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them; the mountains quaked, and their corpses were like refuse in the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25 (NRSV)

Justice is not blind… it is hungry. Science Fiction writer Douglas Adams wrote many of his stories about a concept of “the interconnectedness of all things”. For those who read and affirm the Bible, this is the same kind of idea we teach when we teach that God created all things for a purpose, that God is a god of order, and that when one part suffers, all parts suffer with it. That last bit Paul wrote about the Church primarilly, but I think it applies to a broader group than one set of people.

Interconnectedness is the founding premise of both global warming and the “trickle down effect”. It is the motivation for welfare and war overseas. It is the purpose behind foreign policy and the insurance premiums and we built a monument to this idea in the paradoxical entity called “Wall Street”.

It’s weird. It’s hard to wrap our minds around. But with all of this being supported by it, there has to be some truth to it. For better or worse, we are all connected.

Justice, then, is not just a fancy idea either. Justice is the tension that exists between all things. If we are all connected, and my actions can either hurt or help you, there is necessarily a right and wrong way to do anything and everything. This is our problem today: we want there to be a clear right and wrong for anything that affects us, but not for our own actions. We want to receive the benefits of being in community, but not the responsibility. The more we shake responsibility though, the greater the tension in the community around us, until something snaps and we find ourselves broken, as well as the community around us. The gravity of justice is inescapable.

If there is a right and wrong way to deal with poverty and hunger, there is a right and wrong way to deal with romantic relationships. I think that is why God included problems of murder and theft in the ten commandments along with faithfulness in marriage and honoring parents… and ended with coveting – the sin of wanting what others have. That is one of the hidden sins of our society. Whether it is materialism and keeping up with the Jones’s, or the envy of wanting the looks or abilities of others around us, God calls it sin and our nation is riddled with it. The tension is beyond the breaking point. Justice is starving.

What can we do? The only way to find true justice is to put aside our desires and find new ways to live that bless others instead of just ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you are a white American or an Iraqi immigrant. We share the same world and our actions matter. Isn’t that what Advent and Christmas is all about? Isn’t that what Jesus came to do for us? He took the tension upon His own body and in His grace gave us the strength to lay down our own desires and live for righteousness. Because we trust in God’s provision, we are able to live for God and for one another instead of just living for ourselves. This holiday season, can we put down the thoughts of getting what we want and start giving God what He deserves?

  • Where do you feel the tension of injustice the most?
  • What part of your life do you try to protect the most?
  • How can you begin turning over your desires and replacing them with trust and obedience to God today?

Dies Irae, Dies Illa

Tuesday December 6, 2016