January 11 Esight, 2009

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus— Romans 15.5, NASB.This week, I would like to share with you the above verse as interpreted by Elder Peterson:

    May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all—Romans 15.5, The Message

What I appreciate so much about Peterson’s interpretation of this text is his definition of Christian “maturity.” The fruit of being a mature Christian is that we truly have learned to “get along” with one another. We have come to love others the way God truly loves us. Yet how is it that God wants to bring us to this “maturity?”

Two references I believe give us the only valid nuts-and-bolts answer to the question of “how.” Pay close attention to the phrases I italicize.

Ephesians 3.14-17:

    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

1 John 4.7-12:

    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us.

In both of these passages, love for one another seems to be the climax, the pinnacle of Christian maturity. And how is it that these passages say we are to come to this maturity? We come to the maturity of loving others when we truly begin to believe, on a heart level, how deeply and passionately we ourselves are loved. When we come to know the “dimensions” of God’s love for us, we come to be filled with all the “fullness” of that love by which God is defined, according to Paul. John tells us that if we don’t love, the only reason is that we don’t really know God. (This might mean that the majority of those who call themselves Christians do not even know the God they claim to be following. Did I say that out loud?)

You see, the reason that we don’t love others is that we have not yet truly encountered God’s radical generous other-centered love for us. Our religious experience has been based on externals and formalities. In other words, it is only by love that love truly is awakened. And just as everyone who loves does so as a result of coming to know God and His love, everyone who does not love does not because they have yet to truly encounter Him as He really is (i.e., God is love, I John 4:8).

Another author agrees:

    Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within—when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance (White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 384).

So much is said in this one paragraph.

    1)Love is the basis of godliness! This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    2)Whatever the profession, the litmus test is love for one another.

    3)We can’t love others by “trying” to love them.

    4)What we need is the heart-level belief in the love of Christ for us.

    5)Then, love will spring forth from us “spontaneously.” (She said it, not me! That’s an incredible concept!)

    6)Lastly, this love being expressed for one another is the completeness of Christian character. This is the goal (the restoring of man in the image of God, who is love) to which God is endeavoring to lead us all experientially.

Christian maturity, therefore, is never defined by how stringently you adhere to a list of religious dogma. It’s more dynamic. It’s more relational. It’s about how we treat one another. I don’t know where you are this week, but as I look out on the expanse of what most of Christianity has portrayed to this world, this is the kind of maturity I want God to produce in me. Come what may. My prayer for all who call themselves by His name is that through encountering what He really is, we ourselves will be transformed, changed, into that same “Love” (I John 4:8). Then we can say to the world, truly, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

I wish you God’s best this week.