Sunday, September 3, 2017

Love has a Lion Heart (9/3/17)

Jeremiah 15:15-21   Romans 12:9-21   Matthew 16:21-28

Last week we heard Paul's exhortation: Offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice, do not be conformed to the world, be transformed in your mind by a total makeover of your perceiving, thinking and understanding. He concluded that we, together, are the body of Christ. Today, Paul lays out Christian Behavior 101.

Let love be genuine [anupokritas: Not-hypocrite; sincere, real) detest [apostygeo: abhor] what is evil, cling [kollao=glue; same word used for marriage unity) to what is good.

The communal virtues of treating others better than they treat us, courage and perseverance in the daily struggles and being faithful in prayer rounds out the list. To treat others better than they treat you is expressed in myriad ways, but all point back to imitation of Jesus on the cross. This is the way to make a sacrifice of myself to God!

However, such a way of self sacrifice is not easy. Jeremiah, the prophet, loves unfaithful Israel and suffers greatly because he brings to them God's word. Jeremiah is a faithful prophet, but at times even he folded under the pressure. Weary of mistreatment and betrayal, he cries to God, "Justify me!" He cries to God, "Treat my enemies as they deserve." Jeremiah is desperate for a sign that God is with him. "Show yourself God!" The prophet's words even contain an accusation. God, the source of living waters, seems to be dried up for the desperately thirsty prophet. Can't trust anyone, even God, Jeremiah laments. God's response? He says. "Repent Jeremiah. You turn back to me." There is no promise of an easier way, only the promise that God will be with him. In contemporary jargon, God says to Jeremiah: "Man up, I've got this."

Where Jeremiah stumbles before the burden of human sin and (feeling) divine silence, Jesus embraces His destiny without complaint. "You are Messiah King" Simon (the Rock) declared. Now, when Jesus explains the meaning of Kingship, the suffering and rejection to be endured, the same Rock argues against him. "No, Jesus, No, never, never!" No doubt words spoken out of love, yet Jesus rejects them in a brutal, stunning way; rebuking him he says, "You are Satan, the tempter, get behind me." The rock of faith has suddenly become the stumbling stone... It happens that fast.

The destiny of Jesus is also ours. All of us suffer, all of us die. All of us. The question is for whom or what will we suffer and die? Jesus warns us that discipleship ends in losing our lives for Him--which brings us back to Paul who calls us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice acceptable to God--but the Lord promises to be faithful to those who are faithful--just like He said to Jeremiah. Do you trust? Will you live each day in Jesus? Will you die each day for Jesus? These questions determine everything.

We are prone to complain to God for the difficulties. Like Simon the Rock our prayer is that God will keep us from trouble. We long for the easy way. The prophetic vocation is too hard, we prefer the pathetic vocation of just being 'good enough' and taking care of ourselves.

Love looks like a cross. Love is treating others better than ourselves. Not the way they deserve. Not how they treat us. Better than us.
Love is being faithful in the face of God's willingness to let us struggle. Not trusting when it goes well and griping when it doesn't. Not demanding God does what we want. Being faithful in all manner of circumstances, good or bad, that is the work of love.
Love is strong and faithful and other focused. Love is not sweet, cute and precious. It has a lion heart and unrelenting, cross carrying courage.
Such love is first received from the Lord. In prayer and study open to His life giving love. Open to receive the love of the Crucified One, so you can love as Jesus loves. (God's) Love is the power that will save the world.

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