November 2, 2013

Starving Sin III: Love That Gains An Edge Over Sin

In my concluding post for this series, I will mention one of the greatest things we can do to smack-down sin. It comes to us from the apostle Peter.

1 Peter 4:8 ~ “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

In a word: Charity. I am not talking about handing out food and giving people things as practice/praxis or action but rather the virtue or mindset behind these actions that inevitably drive these types of actions. When I say charity I am talking about a heart condition of unlimited love and kindness towards others. 

Thomas Aquinas understood charity as "the friendship of man for God, which unites us to God". He wrote that it is "the most excellent of the virtues". Further, Aquinas holds that "the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor". Charity in its purest form is altruistic love.

We must understand Peter addressing persecuted Christians—people whose lives were in danger on account of their steadfast loyalty to Christ. There is an end to all things and there is an end to suffering in the flesh. Even in the face of persecution Peter offers exhortation for the way Christians should behave.

Above all things Christians need to have love towards one another. Why? Because as we read in 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient, love is kind, love does not keep score of wrongs and so on. Therefore love will potentially overlook or cover a multitude of sins. There is a need to cultivate a mutual patience and sympathy for others that suffer the same as you. It is because this mutual compassion acts as a support system for one another. It is the proverbial “misery loves company” but in the case of a Christian we are called even to joy in our suffering because not matter what happens to us in this world…it is temporary and the surpassing glory of Christ when we reach our final destination in the presence of God will far exceed any misfortune here and now.

2 Corinthians 4:17 ~ “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”

Philippians 3:8 ~ “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…”

It is a love that can master the misunderstandings, injustices and divisions that inevitably raise their ugly heads in all relationships and associations in a fallen world when imperfect sinful people are involved. Not only can love over these issues it can overcome them. The grace of charity is exalted as one of the highest attainment of the Christian life…do unto others…

Most Christians are and were very different from each other. Love is over and seems to drive all other motives in a Christian life including intellect, freedom and courage. It is often the need or desire to do for others that drives us past what we believe we are capable of or what we believe is possible. We do for others expecting nothing in return.

John 15:13 ~ “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Sadly, because of the Catholic Church and other religious works related salvation, charity has become identified with alms-giving instead of the fruit of the Spirit that it really is. Charity can be defined as the desire to give and desire to bless but this is just one finite aspect of it. The critical point is that it is a desire that arises from within that probably wasn’t there before. As a matter of fact, it probably shouldn’t even be seen so much as a desire than it should be seen as a need that arises out of the new character of the Christian having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ. This is a true impulse of love. To give to others from the overflow of the abundance of the Spirit in us. This restlessness within us only gets relief by the act of giving selflessly. It is literally evidenced as ἀγάπη/agape but bleeds the other loves too: στοργή / storge (affection), ἔρως / eros (passion or zeal for) and  φιλία / philia (friendship/brotherly love). It ends up becoming the love of God personified through man with the Spirit as the drive. This is a love that is distinct from the world and unique to Christians because it's impetus is in the Holy Spirit and the unity therein.

We saw the same fervent charity in Jesus. It is a love capable of cultivating more love. We can cultivate charity by doing acts which love demands. It is God's mercy that feelings are increased by acts done on principle. We cultivate Christian love by contemplating the love of God and God’s very nature since God is love. Love brings about love.

As Booker T. Washington once said: "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else"  If we look closely at the Bible we see God says the exact same thing.

2 Corinthians 11:7 ~ "Or did I [Paul] commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge?

Philippians 2:5-11 ~ "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Why did Paul and Jesus do this? They did it in of the of man.

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

Matthew 22:36-40 ~ “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

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