March 9, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFLECTION:
The hope of this series of reflections on Romans 1.16 is to enhance our thinking on Jesus’ new and great commandment “Love one another.” Without question, we are called to love the whole world (the population of the earth) but never at the expense of “one or another.” The bedrock of such endeavor is laid on the two greatest commandments concerning our call to “love God” and to “love our neighbor as if we are the neighbor.” Of course, even now, the Spirit reminds me that we are to “love others by the same measure that we would want to be loved ourselves.” Suffice it to say that measure is not based on human standards, i.e. the standards established by those around us within the circle of faith and beyond it. Within “the Law” which was revealed to Moses by God, it is clear that we are not to covet that which someone else has and take it for ourselves. How David crushed that command when he not only lusted after Bathsheba but then killed her husband in order to “free” her to marry him. If lust was his only sin in that story, then we might feel justified to say “I could be like David, the beloved of God.” But, his lust created within him the desire to take her and make her his own. He envied Uriah and coveted Uriah’s wife. He didn’t just happen upon his royal porch at the very “oh, did I just see that” moment when Bathsheba was bathing on her rooftop. He knew her springtime ritual by heart. He rehearsed it time and again. He set his plan in motion and engaged it when the timing was perfect. Now, I will not lay the blame all on David. I have no doubt that Bathsheba not only knew David was “lurking as her voyeur” but encouraged it. She may have entertained the joy of David’s desire in her mind. I do not think she considered murder as her means of “divorcing” Uriah. That event was a desperate move made by desperate people. Only when they became immersed in the affair did the “lie” of the enemy begin to speak more loudly. Lust was the invitation, murder was the consequence but the Enemy had far greater designs on David- the beloved of God. You see, Satan’s desire was a covetous one. Satan has established his want for all those who declare fealty to God to be his own. In a way, the Ten Commandents were established by God with Satan in mind. The rules of righteousness were the dividing line between “those who are for God” and “those who are against God.” Satan wants nothing less than for others to love him as he loves himself. That “love,” by the way, is a hatred for God. That “love” becomes the paradigm by which humanity establishes its identity “in the world.” The love of self with the expectation that everyone should love you with the same desire and intensity is simply a definition of “sin.”
And, as we know, Jesus knew of sin because He knew of the code of righteousness. But, Jesus did not “know” sin meaning “He was without sin. He did not sin.” Therefore, Jesus could not love self above others. He could not love self before He loved God. He also could not separate Himself from the truth that such love commanded Him to “love His enemy and do good to those whose desire was to persecute Him even to the point of physical death.” The template for such “love” as Jesus embodied was in the very nature and character of God His Father. Our “love” should embody and image the same. We need to ask ourselves “How does God love us? How has God loved us? How has God promised to love us in the days and eternity ahead?” We are not limited by the powerful description of John 3.16 (and 17) nor are we limited to it. It is but one example of how to answer the questions posed above. But, the gospel of Jesus as the Christ is filled with the measures of “so great a love as this.” I grant you, it takes great faith to model, image and embody such love. On our own it would not only be extremely difficult to do so, it would be impossible. As good as we may “love one another,” our efforts will be flawed and imperfect. This is not an excuse to not pursue loving one another in such a way that honors and pleases God. It should inspire us to let God love with us by His Spirit so that, as in our prayers, “where we are lacking, the Spirit will speak and act.” But, it won’t happen without us just as we can’t “happen” without God and believe we shall be successful.
The measure we give is the measure which shall be given to us.
Father, You are gracious, kind and good. Your lovingkindness endures to all and every generation. We seek for that love to be more fully manifested in us so that “one and the other” shall join with us and escape the terrible fate which awaits those who clothe themselves with sin instead of righteousness. May it be so in us, for us and through us in Jesus’ name. AMEN.