I never really noticed how radically different the two commandments are.
Love God with everything you are.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
Now the second is impossible… And the first seems irrational.
In the story of the good samaritan, before we can ever think of being the lover, we are first the dying man on the road.
You can’t love your neighbour as yourself (#2), until you have the absolutely satisfying promises of Christ’s love for you. (#1) To love God is to rejoice in his love and provision for us, and to proclaim it to the world. God needs nothing from you, and is already infinitely happy, so to love Him is to revel in His lavish goodness. The first commandment is utterly different than the second.
We are the bride… Eagerly awaiting the groom… But we have tasted the sweetness of our betrothed… And seen the goodness of His character.
Now we discover the secret of the second commandment, that to love others is to love Christ…
Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. – Matthew 25:40
We see the provision of our Father most clearly when we are serving:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12
Richard’s paraphrase of these 2 verses: Seek the kingdom, that is seek Christ, and God will will give you everything you need, for in this we find our joy in Jesus the most completely.
Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 4:11
If I could write good prose I would put this into poetry,. But I just don’t have those graces right now, so here it is in a short story form. Keep in mind this is just a word picture to help us realize just what the Christian life is like, and so it is that metaphors always break down. Don’t push it further than it is intended. I will post a bit of an explanation in future posts.
(Now I know that for men it is hard to be the bride of Christ, so I am going to write this parable from a man’s perspective to help us get the reality of what it means to be betrothed to Christ. Ladies, you can just switch it back to the normal biblical picture as you read this.)
I think life in the Kingdom is like this…
You are ready to die, and you know it is all you deserve. As you look around at your apartment where the rent is 3 months overdue, all you see is sin strewn around you. Failed attempts at some kind of fleeting happiness is all that can describe the spent needles, the remnants of one night stands, the rejected job offers. Failure is all you see. Eviction is coming tomorrow, but you know you can’t stand to lose it all again. Everything screams out at you… “unforgivable, worthless, unloveable”. You put the gun you stole, because you can’t even afford your own death instrument, to your temple and just as you are about to pull the trigger, your landlord yells through your paper thin walls from the hallway,
“Hey dirtbag! I don’t know how you convinced her, but your fiancé just paid your whole year’s rent!”
You run into the hallway and arrive just in time to catch a glimpse of her as she is walking through the front doors. She stops. Turns. Your eyes meet.
She is stunningly beautiful. The only word that comes to mind is “radiant”. In that instant your whole world flips upside down, and you realize that the rest of your life will be spent trying to meet her gaze again. She mouths the words, “I love you… now come find me”, and then steps out the door.
You race down the stairs faster than you have ever moved in your life, get to do the door and look both ways down the deserted street. Nothing. Had you imagined her? No that would be impossible. You have never seen beauty like that. It was a beauty that seems to define beauty. There is no way you could have made it up. But you? She loves you? Worthless you?
You hear your name called from a short distance away, and see her again… it wasn’t a dream! This time, you notice she has a crown in her hair… a princess? She steps into the alley way and you run after her. You are not going to miss the chance to see her again. Every second beholding her is of a different quality than all of your past failed flings and experiments. A whole different plane of reality. As you reach the mouth of the alley, she is gone.
But you look down and notice someone lying in the shadows, hunched over and bleeding. It’s the teenager who was always asking you for money or a cigarette every time you walked past this corner. You had always looked the other way, and stepped over him, ignoring his requests. Now listening to his moans you find yourself running to him. You notice gashes on his wrists and a broken bottle, caked in his already drying blood. You scoop him up and hurry back to your apartment, carrying him as gently as you can in your arms.
Brushing away the filth off your bed and the tables, sweeping it all to the corner for now, you are suddenly ashamed of the evidence of who you were just hours before. You run to the medicine cabinet knowing that all is there is almost–empty pill bottles, but hoping to find something useful to help with the bleeding. You open it and to your shock find that it has been put in order, and is well stocked with bandages, rubbing alcohol, tylenol. Then you notice on the back of the mirror there is a note, penned in the most beautiful script you have ever seen…
“To my beloved, there will always be enough for you, so go and love others, and you will see me again.”
You run back and tend to the boy lying on your bed, dressing his wounds as he moans and groans in a stupor of agony. Satisfied you have done all you can for now, you start to walk back towards your front room, and notice a package at the door, propping it just slightly open. You pick it up and start to open it, and find another note, sitting on a wad of cash…
“My beloved, this will be enough to make sure he is taken care of. Go and tell everyone you meet what I am doing for you. Don’t keep me a secret, for the secret is, as you declare your love me to others, and prove it by your unshakeable joy, I will… “
You didn’t realize you were mumbling the words aloud, until you heard her voice join with yours to complete the last sentence,
… always be here with you.”
You look up towards the sweetest sound you have ever heard, and feel the rush of joy again as she steps in from the hallway, taking your hand in hers. Your whole being shudders with the reality of it all. She gently leads you out into the hallway, and you walk hand in hand through the city, as she describes your destiny:
You are hers, the betrothed of the princess who promises to supply you with every need, as you go and love others.
She explains that she has chosen you for her own, and has paid all your debts.
She must go to prepare for your wedding and for your life together, and that until then she asks that you tell everyone of her country, and how to find her and her father.
She warns you that at times it will seem like you haven’t been with her, and will be hard to remember the moments you have had, dreaming of your future lives together. You might even start to doubt that you will ever see her again.
“But,” she says, “as you do what I ask of you, I will be there, for my deepest wish is that you seek the happiness of others as I make you happy. And I promise as you do, you will find that I have provided a way for you to help and love, and then you will see me again. This is the way my father designed for us to meet. When everything seems to be going wrong, and you don’t know if you have anything left to give, remember that I have always prepared a way for you.”
You suddenly find yourself at the car that is there to take her back to her father’s country, which she says in unreachable for now. She rolls down the window to give you a parting gaze, and with a twinkle in her eye, she whispers the words,
“You don’t ever have to be afraid… the best is yet to come.”
And as you sit and ponder your wedding day, you have never felt so alive…
This experience can be yours, for Jesus said, seek and you will find.
What are you going to do about the Jesus problem?