It’s been almost four months since I sat down to piece together a blog…times get rather busy and move along quickly.
As I’ve mentioned before, due to reading the parables of Jesus quite a bit I have ended up spending a lot of that time thinking about the Kingdom of God. What it is and what it’s about. What entrance into it means, how it grows within us, what it means that it then begins to swirl around us. I’ve also spent a bit of time recently thinking and studying about holiness as I did a series with the youth entitled Pure in Heart. That series ended up being eight weeks long. I had no intention to do that, it just kind of grew that way. In thinking about holiness I didn’t get very far till I kept coming back to love and the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact, it all comes back to love and the Kingdom of God. When thinking about a God who is holy (separated otherness), a God who asks us to be holy, I kept finding that He is motivated by and works in love, and, as it always does, comes back to the establishment of His Kingdom. Our view of God needs a proper view of both holiness and love. God is not schizophrenic that He is holy one day and loving the next, or that He is holy in the Old Testament and loving in the New. He is both. He is perfectly both. The holiness and love of God cannot be separated cleanly and easily defined as two separate things. They are intertwined together. And our view of Him needs both because how we view the Kingdom and go about living the Christian life is formed by it.
To view God’s holiness without God’s love will equal legalism (‘Rules, rules and more rules. God is an angry God waiting to crush the sinner. So remember, God is holy so you better not mess up .The Kingdom of God works by keeping rules.’) To live like that is a burden that is not easy and light.
To view God’s love without God’s holiness will equal liberalism (‘Anything goes and it’s ok because God loves me. God understands that I am not perfect so sin ends up being ok, or at least, comfortably left alone. I’m free to be me and live life according to how I feel. Jesus loves me no matter what.’) That tries to make freedom as freedom is not intended to be. True freedom comes in proper confines.
It has been my experience that Christians have a tendency to lean one way or the other with holiness and love. And a lean one way or the other often produces a wrong approach to living the Christian faith. Maybe a look at the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32 can help a little in seeing how God’s holiness and love work.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
Why does the seed need planted? God is holy and we are sinners and the Kingdom of God needs established within us (forgiveness, new creation). Why is the seed available to be planted? Because God is love and desires to reclaim His creation, including individuals. Why does the seed need to grow? Because God is holy and there is a life that He intends that follows forgiveness. Why is the seed allowed to grow? Because God is patient in love as it grows in fits and starts with in us.
I realize that it doesn’t breakdown as cleanly as I wrote it. It may be a bit of a theological hack job to simplify it that way. But our minds separate love and holiness so it may be the easiest way to bring them together. I actually went through the parables about the Kingdom of God and was able to see them in this way, seeing how holiness and love work together. It reaffirmed the need to understand that God is holy and God is love. He is both equally. And we should be thankful that He is. His holiness enables us to see the true nature of sin, what true freedom is, what abundant life is all about. That’s what the Kingdom produces, abundant life. In His love He keeps on with us as this is going on. His love allows the way of salvation and provides what we need to have the Kingdom grow within us, even as that can be a messy, but wonderful, process.
In some way, we are all like the woman who was caught in adultery and was brought to Jesus (John 8:1-11). If you look at this story through the lenses of holiness and love, you can see both at work. Take a moment to read that story and see how Jesus deals with the situation through the lenses of holiness and love. It is the same way He approaches and deals with all of us.
I’ll leave you with this: I’ve been seeing a lot lately the use of what is called The Jesus Prayer. I believe its origin is the Eastern Orthodox Church. Anyway, I believe in its simplicity is the power of the Gospel. The prayer is simply this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.