Ambassador of Reconciliation
5/12/15 at 09:36 PM 23 Comments

Should We Love Everybody? Part 2

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We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, by G. K. Beale

In Part 1 of this series I started exploring the relationship between our view of God and our behavior, and I concluded that there is a direct connection between the two. What is the dynamic that is going on here? Psalm 115 gives us a clue; it indicates that we tend to become like whatever we worship. The psalmist speaks of idols made by human hands and says, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (v. 8). In his book We Become What We Worship, Greg Beale exegetes Isaiah 6 to show that we take on the characteristics of whatever we worship—whether idols of wood and stone, the modern idols that we run after, a distorted image of God, or the true God.

And why does it matter? If it’s true that we become like the God we worship, then it is critically important to know what He is really like so that our lives accurately reflect and represent the true God. As one of the reviewers of Beale’s book writes,

Beale argues that humans are “imagining” beings, necessarily reflecting one image or another, and so it becomes crucial to determine who or what we are reflecting and to whom or what we are becoming conformed. (On Journeying with those in Exile, poserorprohet.wordpress.com, January 1, 2009)

Consider all the ways the Bible exhorts us to be like the Lord:

Be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 1:44,45, 19:2, 20:7,26, 1 Pe. 1:16).

Love your enemies so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:44).

Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).

Be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph. 5:1).

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Eph. 5:2).

Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3:10).

Forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven you (Col 3:13).

We are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

In particular, we are to love as God loves. Certainly we are to love the brothers (1 Jn. 3:14), but our love is not to be limited to other believers. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors (Mt. 22:39), who may or may not be Christians. And if we truly want to be like God and love as He loves, we must go one step further and love even our enemies; then we will truly be children of our heavenly Father (Mt. 5:44).

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil (Lk. 6:35).

In recent weeks our pastor has been preaching on 1 John, with its great themes of “God is light” (1:5) and “God is love” (4:8, 4:16). The word love appears more than 40 times in this short book, and the connection between God’s love for us and our love for others is inescapable. Read these representative verses and consider how our love is to reflect His love.

Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (2:5-6).

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (3:1).

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (3:16).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (4:7-8).

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (4:11-12).

We love because he first loved us (4:19).

Cruel God, Kind God: How Images of God Shape Belief, Attitude, and Outlook, by Zenon Lotufo, Jr.

The rest of Scripture also teaches us to know God as He really is and to reflect His character qualities in our own lives, especially His love.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (Jn. 15:12).

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Phil. 2:5-6).

Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator….Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3:10-14).

Does not the Bible make it abundantly clear that God is love, He loves us, and we as His children ought to love one another with the same love? And what could be more important than understanding the true character of God so that we might worship Him properly and reflect His character accurately in our own lives? As Greg Beale says in his book We Become What We Worship, “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” In the words of Thomas Thayer,

If, then, we would make mankind what they should be, we must begin with the object of their worship; we must first make their religion what it should be. We must cast out from the holy place all the dark and ferocious superstitions of the past and the present, whether Pagan or Christian, and in the place of these set up, in all its divine beauty and simplicity, the merciful and loving religion of Jesus Christ.

How would setting up “in all its divine beauty and simplicity, the merciful and loving religion of Jesus Christ” impact our world? Jesus said it would cause people to recognize Christians as His disciples:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn. 13:34-35).

If Christians are known for their love, people will be drawn to their fellowship, and even more importantly, drawn to the God who transformed them and created the love and unity among them. Our lives can be a powerful testimony to the truth of the words of the gospel, if we present the true God who is light and love and if our lives match our words. Sadly, the converse is also true; people can be driven away from God by the behavior of His children, who presumably reveal what He is like. When our picture of the Father is distorted, our reflection of Him becomes even more distorted than it is already by our sin nature.

The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life, by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, we can have faith, knowledge, prophetic powers, the ability to speak in tongues, and the courage to be a martyr, but without love we are nothing. If we lack the fruit of the Spirit, the first of which is love, the world will not see God in us. But if we love as He loves, God’s love will be perfected in us—and the world will take note.

My prayer for all of us is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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