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« The Struggle for Integrity | Main | Necessary Things »

Transcendent Love

I found myself embarrassed the other day.  Looking through my sizable collection of books for something on love, I discovered about three books, and two of them were marginal.  I was stunned that the one word that encapsulates Christianity has such poor representation in my library, and perhaps in our literature.  I wonder if our practical Christianity suffers from the same impoverishment.  I know this: if we major on doctrine, discipleship and ecclesiastical knowledge at the expense of genuine love, we will fail to rise to the full measure and stature of Christ. 

This point may be best illustrated in a scene at the sea of Galilee, about seventy miles north of Jerusalem, as Jesus spend His waning hours on earth.  The horror of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection were hardly a week old.  Many of us aren’t aware of this, but between Resurrection Morning and the Day of Pentecost, the disciples had traveled all the way home to fish, about four days journey.  They certainly didn’t expect to see Jesus so far from Jerusalem.

Jesus stood at the water’s edge and called out to the disciples, including Peter, who were fishing from their boat, “Children.  Have ye any meat?”

The last person Peter wanted to see was Jesus.  He had seen Him since He rose from the grave, but we have no record of reconciliation or any even conversation between the Master and His disciple.

                The real drama now begins to play out.  The disciples admitted they had caught nothing, so Jesus tells them to try the other side of the boat.  Their obedience was rewarded by a huge catch.  When they waded ashore, Jesus invited them to come and dine.  He had already prepared a meal of bread and fish over a bed of hot coals.  He then asked them to bring the fish that they had just caught.  Peter dragged the net full of 153 fish to the little camp. 

The disciples sat around the fire picking the meat from the bones and eating, but nobody dared to ask if this person who prepared the meal was really Jesus.  It was a strange, suspenseful moment.  Adding to the tension was the fact that not a word had been exchanged between Jesus and Peter.  It doesn’t take much imagination to sense the awkwardness that filled the air.

                When they finished eating, Jesus slowly turned his head around the group, finally settling His gaze on Peter.  Beads of sweat broke out on his flushed face.  “Here it comes.  I wondered when He was going to take me to task for my cowardly act.  Surely He knows what I did.  I was so disloyal.  I deserve whatever punishment he metes out.”

                But the Master always surprises.  The condemning words never came.  Rather than brow-beating Peter, He disarmed him with a simple question. “Simon, do you love me more than these?”  “These” referred to the six other disciples who had not denied Jesus. Moreover, in asking Peter this question, Jesus used the Greek word agape, the highest form of love.

                The kindness caught Peter off guard.  “Lord, you know I love you!” he cried.  Peter responded with phileo, a lesser form of love, no doubt because he felt unworthy to claim agape love.

                Three times Jesus repeated His question, one for each of the three denials of Peter.  You can find deeper theological truths here, but these questions reveal the loving leadership of Christ, perhaps one of the greatest displays of the transcendent power of love.  At the moment when He could have verbally assaulted Peter, He chose instead to lift him up, out of his misery and guilt.  In the end, Jesus repeated the words that began His relationship with Peter three and a half years prior.  “Follow me.”

Love lifts.  It has the power to elevate the human soul into a higher realm than any other emotion.  Love is so central to the very concept of the divine that the Apostle John equated love to God himself. 

John sat at the fire that day and witnessed the interaction between Jesus and Peter.  He saw love at its finest.  A half century passed after the incident, but it still influenced John’s epistle to the church.  The King James Version has the best rendition: 

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him…There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love him, because he first loved us.” I John 4:16-19.    

Agape love is meant for you today.  It is unexpected.  Undeserved.  None of us qualify for it.  God has a love for us today that that will lift us from the ordinariness of life, from our status as a faceless number, from existing as an inconsequential person, from being a pew occupant; and up to genuine significance.  God’s love reaches down into the turmoil and despair of life and pulls us to safety.

This attribute of love makes it the highest virtue and greatest attribute of God.  You may say, “Give up on me, Pastor!  Give up on me God!”  That language is not in God’s vocabulary.  You may take your trip back to Galilee.  You may go back to your old life.  You may convince yourself that God has written you off.  But He knows exactly what He is doing.  He is preparing an altar for you.

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  Ephesians 3:19.

Love is greater than hope.  It is greater than faith.  Transcendent love is not circumstantial or random; rather, it is planned and deliberate.  When you embrace the love of God you need never fear an encounter with God.  God does not settle his eyes on you to condemn you but to save you.  When you come to His altar, you are not going to find rejection and judgment.  You are going to find sweet release from the haunting of the past.  You may not know how God is going to take care of your problem, but that’s His problem! 

To the church:  After all of our orthodoxy, after all of our discipleship, after all of our sacrificial living, the most enduring message we have for the world is “Yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so!”

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Reader Comments (1)

Beautifully said.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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