Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Do you really believe this?"

Brennan Manning on the reality of God's love for you. Yes, you.



As skeptical and untrusting as I am, I am usually the first to say, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true." I would feel that way about God's love for me if I hadn't experienced it first hand. While, God's love for me made real, concrete, actual in Jesus sounds too good to be true, it is the hardest truth to live by, to build my life on, to use to shape my relationships. I mean, what Brennan is saying is easy to grasp, that is, comprehend, but difficult to believe, but what if I lived each moment as if this were true, or even lived that way a lot of the time? Because I am forgetful and vacillating, Jesus' love for me is something I need to be reminded of over and over. Nothing is more fundamental, even elemental.

Therefore, I think when we invoke John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life"(ESV), we need to keep in mind John 3:17: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (ESV). You might say, "Well Deacon Scott, should we read further and include John 3:18, which talks about the condemnation of those who refuse to believe?" I would say that even if we go to the end of verse 20 we see that those who refuse the love of God condemn themselves by their refusal, not by God.

Preaching the Gospel really doesn't consist of anything more than bearing witness to God's love poured out for us. When we make it about more, which we often do, putting, say, morality up-front, like the proverbial cart before the horse, we fail Him by telling others that God will only love them as they should be and could never love them as they are. To paraphrase Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, we have no business discussing morality with someone until that person knows that God loves them just as they are and that any movement towards "should be" is a movement of grace requiring cooperation as a loving to response to the love they have received. Sure, it's a mouth full, which is why we can be brief and just say, "God loves you just as you are, right now, at this moment. Do you believe?

Lord,
true light and source of all light,
listen to our morning prayer.
Turn our thoughts to what is holy
and may we ever live in the light of your love. Amen.


Turning our thoughts to what is holy means turning our thoughts to Jesus, who sanctifies us by loving us.

3 comments:

  1. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future..."

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  2. I appreciate your comments regarding the right relationship between evangelization and moral teaching. As we know, all moral teaching is founded on the law of love -- love initiated by God's love for us as revealed most completely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What we preach, as St. Paul reminds us, is Christ crucified, which is another way of saying God's love poured out completely for all of us.

    We know too that God's love is revealed in a veiled yet certain way in all of creation, through human nature and the natural laws that it is made to follow. The natural law is a reflection of the law of love and from it we have the foundation for the Church's moral law.

    "If you love me, follow me." i.e, real love is perfected in a moral life, and the moral life only makes sense in the context of a loving relationship with God as we have come to know Him.

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  3. True, Bob. Without love there can be no true morality. Ethics, while important, always strike me as cold, especially when they do not flow from true morality.

    I would just add that even after we come to experience God's amazing love for us, we still fail, we still screw up, go off the path, refuse to let go of the sins we cherish. God still loves us just as much because God's love is unconditional and unbounded (i.e., infinite), which means, unlike every other relationship we have experienced, there is nothing we can do that will cause God to love us less.

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