Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Infinite Value of the Other.

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you;” in John 15:17, This is My command: Love each other.”  Five times in this section of Scripture, in John 13-17, Jesus speaks of what He commands for His Apprentices in the Life of the Spirit, and each time it relates to obedience in the arena of relationships within His Body— John 13:34-35; 14:15; 15:12, 14, and 17.

The question of how we love one another as Sons and Daughters of God, or if we love one another— which is the condition for the world’s recognizing us as His Disciples in John 13:34-35— is nearly identical with what Jesus has said on several other occasions in the Gospels, that we are to love {agapao} the Lord and those around us as ourselves.  There is no fundamental difference between the two in their outworking and application.  Why do I make this point?  Because the theological system I was trained in seems eager on almost every hand to write off the words of Jesus, even concerning the “greatest commandment” {‘loving God and loving others’}.  When the command is given to love one’s neighbor as oneself, the most common viewpoint of said system has been, “Oh, the caveat is if you hate yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to hate your neighbor.  If you _____ ” then fill in the blank with how one feels about himself {despise yourself, condemn yourself, shame yourself, blame yourself} and under Law one can get away with it because, well, that’s what the Law says.  And Law is Law; it’s immovable, unchangeable, inflexible.

Here’s an historical note which might shed some light in a different direction.  The belief of the ancient Hebrew, intrinsic in Judaism and setting it apart from Hinduism and Buddhism {which actively seek out the dissolution of self and self-awareness and the integration of one’s self into a ‘cosmic consciousness’}, is that the individual is uniquely valued because he or she was uniquely created by God.  I.e., their soul endowed with the ‘breath’ or spark ‘of life’ by His own hand.  Thus, the individual is of great importance to God {which means you are of great importance to God}, enough so that we can boldly say He gave His Life and His Son to save each and every one of us.  Here’s what I’m getting at: the basic and bedrock belief of Judaism was no man in his right mind {the key}, or woman, would mistreat himself, starve himself to death {fasting exempted}, beat himself, steal from himself, abuse himself verbally, mentally, emotionally, etc.  The point is not that we’re not capable of these things, the point is there is value in a single human life created by God …and love respects this, seeks to nourish this, encourage this and doesn’t abuse this.

In The Weight of Glory C.S. Lewis reminds us of something very important: you have never seen an “ordinary person.”  If you were to see this individual as they were meant to be by God {that is, in the glory God intended before the Fall}, or in the case of a believer, as they will be in God, you would be tempted to fall down in either fear or worship.  Whooaahhh.  G.K. Chesterton says the hardest thing to believe in Christianity is the infinite value it places upon the worth of the individual person.  But the magnitude of our eternal destiny depends on this worth, and demonstrates this worth for the Universe— at the Cross.

Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
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