Two and a half thoughts for you to mull over that I was mulling over myself, thanks to Brennan Manning’s book, “The Signature of Jesus.” A couple of quotes from there and some Scriptures to help you with your mulling!
“The criterion by which Christ measures his friends and repudiators is still, “Do you love me?” What is the goal of bible study, reform and renewal if we forget this, even if we hold to everything else? How can anyone muster the incredible hard heartedness and the intemperate messianic zeal to inflate style and tradition, orthodoxy, biblical interpretation and right thinking into such monsters that Jesus’ question to Peter is put on the shelf?”
Friend, it may sound a very unnecessary question, but is love for Jesus Christ at the centre of what you call your Christian Commitment and faith and discipleship? Is love for Jesus Christ Himself at the very centre of your ministry and is that what you hope your ministry results in: disciples who are lovers of Jesus Christ? It really is possible that Christ stands outside a church or a life that has a reputation of being on fire for Him….knocking at the door and saying, “If anyone hears me and opens the door, I will come in.”
Moving towards another Scripture and the second quote: how do I know I love Jesus? Basically He Himself tells us, we love him by obeying His word, keeping His commandments above all the New Commandment to love one another. It seems to have become very popular even for believers to be cynical about church, disillusioned and dismissive and even to enter into a mockery about its oddities and its shortcomings in a manner that is clever and witty; at times I have spoken in such a way, but I am beginning to fear all of that has gone too far; it can break the spirit of faithful church people who work on rather than criticise from a distance, and I believe it breaks the heart of Christ who gave himself for the Church to be His Holy Bride. Any bridegroom who would feel positive warm thoughts towards anyone criticising, or worse mocking his bride is not worthy to be called such. Of course God does new things, but perhaps some of us who are frustrated with church as it is, might have a bit of repenting to do if we are going to have the attitude necessary for the blessing of God to rest on any new ventures we try for longer than a few years after the life time of the generation of the originators, or beyond the draw of novelty value. It will be humbling to look back from eternity to a time if we mock something that has lasted hundreds of years or more despite all its faults, if what we promoted lasts a mere 50. We need the new to succeed for longer than that, should Christ tarry. We need the new to live under the continuing blessing of God.
So if the first Scripture to mull over is Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?”, the second is “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for Her….” And here’s the second quote from Brennan Manning to help you:
“The Father cries out… “You go to church every Sunday and read your bible, but the Body of My Son is broken. You memorise Chapter and Verse, and honour all your traditions, but the Body of My Son is broken. You recite the creed and defend orthodoxy, but the Body of My Son is broken. You hark back to tradition and press forward towards renewal, but the body of My Son is broken…”
… and here is the extra half thought, which I may come back to if I have the courage one day! A friend asked me if Brennan Manning was a Universalist? Did he believe everyone would be saved, which of course is heresy? I can’t say I have ever thought he was, despite his amazing and to my mind unparalleled understanding of grace. However, if we have not in our longings at least longed we could be universalists then maybe we really are heretics who have maybe never understood the heart of the Father. The Father of the way of “faith,” Abraham, got pretty near to Universalism just before Sodom was destroyed. The Lord allowed him to come close to the border of Universalism, though Abraham himself was somehow aware he should not and could not cross it.
I don’t think Jesus is calling softly and tenderly to us through this blog, though He often does I believe. I think He is saying without any messing about, “Love Me! Love my Church! Love this lost world of men and women for which I gave my life. My Father is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
By the way, if you don’t know what a 5 point Calvinist is or who these Fresh Expression folk are, they are good folk who love the Lord; your brothers and sisters in Christ and mine too!