Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sending (Missional) Love

"The love of God revealed in Jesus Christ is his total unconditional self-giving to mankind, love in which he does not withhold himself from loving to the utmost or cut short its full movement, and it is upon that love that our hope of redemption and resurrection is grounded. It is the love of the eternally self-affirming and self-giving God, and so the love he pours out freely upon us through the Holy Spirit is love that affirms itself as love against all that is not love or resists his love. ... He does not hold back his love from the sinner, for he cannot cease to be the God who loves and loves unreservedly and unconditionally." (T. F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God, 246).

What do you do with a quote like this? It's one of those statements that all Christians who have any knowledge of the Bible affirm, but most of us have little clue regarding its actually meaning. In other words, we affirm it with our minds, but with our experience we opt for something much different.

Why do I say this? Because if we actually experienced God's love in this way, if we actually understood and experienced his self-giving, sending, and missional nature in our relationship with him, our lives would be overflowing with love for others. We would be missional Christians because we know up-close-and-personal the sending love of the Spirit.

But we settle for second-hand love. We settle for the "sent" love, the knowledge that God "sent" his Son and gave himself in the past tense and therefore we make Christianity and discipleship (or Spiritual Formation) into a self-focused disciplined of remembering what was done in the past for us. As a result, our response to the love of this past is little more than a bunch of oughts. We ought to obey. We ought to be missional. We ought to serve the poor. We ought to witness. We ought to worship.

Because we are stuck with a historical experience of God's love, we opt for poor substitutes for God's love in the present. Instead of experiencing his love, we find love "in all the wrong places" as the old country song said. And I don't mean through overt sin. I mean we find second-rate approval and well-being through things like staying busy, entertainment, work achievements, etc. instead of going all in and finding our true home in God.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the past and what Jesus did for us on the cross. There has never and never will be a greater act of love. But the love displayed on the cross is so great that it has enduring, ongoing and present day life. We experience its power right here, right now. God's love cannot be limited to a transaction that happened years ago. It's an ongoing reality, a personal experience of "God's empowering presence" (Gordon Fee).

So today, if you want to be on mission with God, enter into the love of God. It is who he is and The Father, The Son and the Spirit invite us into the eternal love that defines all of who God is.

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