“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:35 (ESV)
I have for this entire week been thinking about a different passage and I have been meaning to share it as this week’s devotion. But I couldn’t. Why? I can’t tell. When it comes to matters like these, the most informed answer that I can ever give is “I don’t know.”
I this afternoon, and the entire part of the evening, had time to interact with my uncle. We talked about so many things, but one stuck. Not in my head, but in my heart. I was challenged. Not challenged to do it better, because I can’t. But challenged that I always do the opposite.
He told me of a friend of his whom he visited recently. As he was sitting in his friend’s living room, he sees a TV that seems to have not worked for months. There and then, his inquisitive self set in. he asked whether the TV works. The response was negative.
His friend told him that since digital migration came around, he has not had a chance to watch television. That is when my uncle gave him some money for a digital-TV decoder, and he (my uncle) says that this friend called him yesterday and he was very happy.
Now, this moved me. It did so only because I can’t do it. I am a spiritual guy who does spiritual things but not of this kind. I’d rather correct someone’s skewed theology than sit on a pavement and enjoy a good laughter-filled conversation with a guy unlike me.
When I heard this story, I remembered all the times that I had the opportunity to enjoy someone’s company but messed it up trying to correct them.
I remembered all the days that I kept a ledger of people’s wrongs when God Himself had refused to condemn them.
I remembered all the times I judged people because they messed. I called them weak Christians forgetting that it is for people such as them that Jesus came, died and rose again.
In short, I all the time choose to attach conditions to what God in Jesus has declared unconditional. I try to qualify what is already free. I try to act God, instead of radiating God’s love for me.
Francis Schaeffer once wrote: “Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.” A theology however deep it may be but without love is but a dead end.
Our orthodoxy as Christians is love; its not being right or wrong. We are not called to theologically straighten up people. We are called to love them. Not to fix them according to our liking but to love them as they are not as they should be, because “no one is as they should be”, says Brennan Manning.
I have to also state that this is impossible when all eyes are on ourselves. I cant love you when all my focus is on me. I have to forget myself to remember you. I have to stop obsessing over me.
Thankfully, the gospel does this for us: God in Jesus meets all our needs so that we will take the eyes off ourselves and then to our neighbour. The gospel promise is that everything you need is already yours in Jesus, chill and ask how that brother or sister is doing.
How we love, not how well we argue for and against theology and doctrine is what makes us Christians.
That is your Lifeline, Amen.