Friday, July 27, 2007

Love Provoked by Love Given

I've been reading Mark Buchanan's walk through 2 Peter 1:1-9 -oddly enough, that's our theme passage for this year at ABC and, coincidentally, at the heart of many recent conversations lately- and have been struck by his understanding of each of the virtues listed. Love, however, the last in Peter's list, is the one that has captured my attention.

He talks about love, agape love, not just being unconditional love, as we often define agape, but unprovoked love. I like that. We hear about unprovoked attacks, random acts of violence committed on some poor, unwitting victim who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but not often do we hear of unprovoked goodness let alone unprovoked love. That's the way I want to love: unprovoked.

He takes it a little further though. "I said that agape is unprovoked love. That's only half true. In God, it is unprovoked. But in us, it is provoked - by God. God sparks it, fels it, stokes it. 'This is love,' John says, 'not that we loved God, but that he loved us'...That love - God's agape for you - is the only thing that can provoke agape in us toward the least of these, the most of these, the worst of these" (Hidden in Plain Sight, pg. 190).

Then he tells a story:

"Tracy is one of the worship leaders at our church. One Sunday, as she sat at the piano, she talked about the difficult week she'd just been through. It was chaotic, she said, a mess of petty crises on top of a rash of minor accidents, all mixed up in a soupcon of crazy busyness. It had left her weary and cranky. She got up that Sunday to lead worship and felt spent, with nothing more to give.

She walked into the living room, and the window was covered with scrawl. Her eight-year-old daughter Brenna (I call her Lucy, because of her pitch-perfect resemblance to the character by that name in the movie adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) had with a glass crayon scribbled something, top to bottom, side to side, across the picture window. At first, it seemed to Tracy one more thing to do, one more mess to clean. The she saw what Brenna had written: love, joy, peace, patience, kindnece, goodnece, faithfulnece, gentelnece and selfcantrol (Brenna's delightful spelling).

Tracy stopped, drank it in. Her heart flooded with light. It was exactly what she needed to be reminded about: the gift of the fruit of te Spirit that arises, not by our circumstances, but by Christ within us.

And then Tracy noticed one more thing Brenna had written, at the edge of the window: Love one another. Only Brenna, in her creative spelling, had written,




It's what Jesus has been trying to tell us all along. You were won that way. Now go and do likewise." (Hidden in Plain Sight, pg 191).

I want to live like that. I'm getting there but I still have a long way to go. All of the virtues Peter talks about mean nothing, I think, without this. "The greatest of these is love," Paul says, in a discussion of the gifts of the Spirit. He understood.

I need to choose, every day, every minute and every hour, to accept the gift of love that God has so graciously bestowed on me, unprovoked, and go and do likewise. To live a life of significance is not to be great at doing many (or even one!) things or to do all of the good things in the world if love is not the motivator. To live a life of significance is to be loving...because we are loved...because I am loved.

I've been thinking, again, about the life of Christ, the story He lived in. He did a lot of great things. He healed people, fed people, preached to the masses. He cleared out the temple. He cast demons out. He even raised people from the dead! All of these things were great but what made His life signficant was that He loved people. He died and rose again because He loved people. He gave up His rights, His well being, His place in the throne room of heaven, because he loved. All he did and all he was was motivated by love.

To think he loves me, he loves us, that much.

Go...and do likewise.

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