“And This is Love…”

AgapeI’m often preoccupied with obsessive-like questions in my brain: “Do I really know what it means to be a Christian…from God’s perspective?” and, “Am I a Christian…from God’s perspective?” A third question also pops up occasionally: “Do we do church the way church is supposed to be done…again, from God’s perspective?” I suppose it might seem strange to someone who knows I’ve claimed to be a Christian since I was still in single digits, age-wise. But the more I discover about Biblical Christianity, the more I realize many well-intentioned people (like me) run the risk of living in a delusional bubble of pseudo-Christianity.

Many of us have been disrupted by revelations along our journey that upended a belief or understanding of Christianity we may have held for years. As a young adult, I was astonished to learn there was more to Christianity than not doing all the things that seemed appealing to me, like drinking and smoking and dancing and going to the movies, and going “too far,”…and playing with face cards (gasp!).

And many of us have been surprised to learn that Biblical Christianity demands that we abandon our perspective in exchange for God’s perspective. It’s not a suggestion. Sometimes we tend to be a little lax about the “take up your cross” element of being an authentic Christian. And we’re a little fuzzy about the “life transformation” part of the story.

Here again, we’re challenged to see things from God’s perspective. We’re easily distracted, and fooled, by our own perspective. Who’s exempt from the warning, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16.25)?

Every now and then a puzzle piece falls into place. Like recently as I was headed to the Home Depot, and I was thinking about Jesus’s* statement, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13.35 NLT). Based solely on this comment, it seems that love should be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. The love Jesus mentioned is agape love, which bears little resemblance to our natural, self-gratifying type of love. How is agape love expressed? We find the answer (or at least part of the answer) in 2 John 1.6: “And this is (agape) love: that we walk in obedience to his (God’s) commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

I enjoy these kinds of scriptures! This verse is a “perpetual pondering” kind of thing we might get lost in around a campfire: This is love, that you walk in his command to love. My head was already spinning when the greatest – and the runner-up to the greatest – commandments came to mind. In Matthew 22.37-39, we are told to be impassioned by our love for God, and to pour his love out to the people around us (my paraphrase).

Awesome! This is an answer to my earlier question: I am a Christian if I walk in obedience to God’s command to love him with everything I am, and my neighbors-in-life the same way. That seems simple enough, right! If we’re not walking this way, can we rightfully call ourselves a Christian? I think it’s a fair question…especially from God’s perspective.

I suspect I will still be asking these questions for years to come, and I’m okay with that, because there’s one question I’ve answered that makes all the other questions find their place. I’ve answered “Yes!” to God’s invitation to live life with him. I’ve settled that question in my heart, and I enthusiastically reaffirm it daily.

*Editorial note: I realize we prefer to write Jesus’ rather than Jesus’s. However, I’ve been told the CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) has gone back to writing it Jesus’s.

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