Encouragement From The Word

Hollow Love

Earlier this week, I met with my spiritual director, as is my monthly custom.  As she was praying for me at the conclusion of our meeting, a thought came to my mind which I have been holding before the Lord ever since.  It is this: “For a Christian to elevate love over holiness renders love hollow.”

As I’ve spent time pondering this – and even asking a few friends to reflect on it – I’m convinced that it is true.  Secular society, and even some of the church visible, makes love the ultimate virtue. Of course, we would expect nothing more of secular society, since in not knowing God, it cannot grasp the concept of holiness.  But God’s people are called, first, to make him exclusively our God (Exodus 20.3), and in response, to be holy because God is holy (Leviticus 11.45).  It is only then that we can love fully, because his love is made perfect in us (1 John 4.12), only then that we can fulfill Jesus’ commandment that disciples love each other as he has loved us (John 13.34).

For Christians, to prize love over holiness cheapens both.  However, we likewise can’t prize holiness without love, since that would make us legalistic.  Love is best expressed through holiness, and in a sense, we can communicate a sense of the holiness of God through our expressions of love – but only if we are first committed to growing in holiness ourselves.

I know some people have come from or are in traditions where the call to holiness is accompanied by guilt and shame.  But that’s not the biblical call to holiness.  Jesus doesn’t say “straighten up”, he says, “Come here!”  The Lord’s call to holiness is a call to follow him in every way, recognizing that there is grace to help us in the ebb and flow of our walk with him.

So my encouragement to you today is to pursue holiness, for only as we grow to become more like the Lord will we be able to love others with the “agape” love with which he loves us.

13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.16 For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1.13-16, NLT, citing Leviticus 11.45).

Biblical Messages

CHRISTIANITY 101: Things Are Getting Better

Darkness can seem powerful.  When you walk through a dark room, it is as if inanimate objects take on a life of their own, and jump out in such a way as to cause you to stub your toe.  Our minds play tricks on us.  We think that some horrific creature is going to attack us.

We associate darkness with evil, and for good reasons:  a lot of violent crime takes place under cover of darkness.  Satan is known as the prince of darkness.  When we close our eyes, we see only darkness, knowing that there is a remote possibility that we will never open our eyes again.  Literature, even the Bible, practically equates darkness with evil.

But the funny thing about this terrible, awful darkness is that it can be dispelled very quickly.  A lot of darkness can be dispelled by a little bit of light.
“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”, said the founder of Amnesty International, quoting a Chinese proverb.  “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle”, said St. Francis of Assisi.

People light candles at all sorts of events for various reasons, but almost all of them have this in common:  hope.  Where there is light, there is hope.  Where there is light, we know that things are getting better.

So it is for us:  the apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus nearly 2000 years ago, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5.8a, NIV).  When we are light, we are getting better.

Based on Ephesians 5.8-20, you can listen to this message by clicking here.