I was raised in a fundamentalist "hard line" Christadelphian ecclesia which boasted that it preserved the teachings of the "pioneers" - meaning, of course, the Christadelphian pioneers John Thomas, Robert Roberts, and others of their generation. (I later discovered through my own reading of these "pioneers" that the Christadelphianism in which I was raised was actually built on an edited version of pioneer writings, and that most people actually didn't know about a lot of things which John Thomas had written and would have disagreed with them if they had known. I believe that John Thomas would be unwelcome - perhaps even be disfellowshipped - if he turned up in some Christadelphian ecclesias today).
Ecclesias like this one claimed to be based on "sound doctrine" and denigrated Christadelphians "on the other side" (meaning Christadelphians with whom they would not fellowship) as "weak". One of the criticisms of these other Christadelphians, and of Christians generally, was that spoke too much about "love" and it was usually said with a tone that implied that "love" was just a shallow concept based on lightweight theology, for "weak" Christians who hadn't grown beyond the "milk" of the Word. Those who had moved on to the "meat" of the Word spent more time debating the nature of Christ, the doctrine of the Atonement, the inevitability of sin, resurrectional responsibility, and "important" doctrines which inevitably became reasons for dividing from other Christadelphians who held different views, didn't understand these matters at such a "deep" level, or who simply didn't care. I rarely heard the word "love" used in a positive way.
That's why it came as a profound revelation to me when I discovered that "love" was, in fact, the most important teaching of the Bible.
- Jesus said that the whole of the Law and the Prophets hung upon the commandment to love (Matt 22:36-40).
- John said that the teachings of Jesus could be summarised in the commandment to love (1 John 3:23).
- Paul said that the three foundations of Christianity are "faith, hope and love" and "the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13).
- Paul said that the death of Christ was a demonstration of love (Rom 5:8). So did John (1 John 3:16).
- Jesus said that our salvation is the result of one simple truth: God so loved that He gave (John 3:16).
- John summed it up by saying "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16).
Love is not simply something that God does. Rather, everything He does is motivated by love. It is not just one of His characteristics to be loving. Rather, it is the characteristic which is His very essence.
Any statement of faith then must be built upon this foundational truth: the whole purpose of God is the result of His love for His creation, and our response to His love is to be loving.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
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