Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Loving as Christ Loves Me: An Astonishing Truth

As a follow-up to Monday's post on New Covenant living, I would like to point out an excellent comment given by my father in yesterday's comment stream. The premise of my post Monday was that New Covenant believers are known for our obedience to a "new" commandment from Jesus to "love one another." My father points out just exactly how this commandment in John 13:34 is "new."

The law of "Loving your neighbor as yourself" was the old law given in the Old Covenant as recorded various places including Lev. 19:18. When Jesus said "A new commandment give I you..." [John 13:34] He was NOT giving a new commandment to love, which was already given, but rather (He was giving a new commandment in) HOW to love someone --- " As I have loved you." [Not as you love yourself.]
Think about what Jesus is saying. We have always been commanded to love others - from the very beginning. But in the New Covenant our standard or measurement of loving others is no longer "love people like I love myself," but rather, "love people as Christ has loved me."

The question one should ponder as we think about how we are to love others is clear: How is the love of Christ for my soul different than my own love for my own soul? There many, major differences between self-love and Christ's love for me. But there is one major difference I would like to point out in today's post.

Self-love is powerful and deep - but expected; Christ's love for me is so much more powerful, so much deeper - and unexpected! Thus, my love for others in the New Covenant ought to astonish, amaze and cause people to scratch their head in wonderment and surprise - just as I am astonished, amazed and surprised by Christ's love for me.

Psychologists tell us that self-love is universal. Even those with "low self-esteem" love themselves - or they wouldn't be bothered by whatever problems they perceive they have. Again, self-love is easily understood and explained.

But Christ's love for me hard to explain and understand. His love is so much stronger, and so much more powerful - and unexpected!. Thus, loving people the way Christ loved me is so much deeper, stronger and incredibly more powerful than we imagine. It is also surprising to those being loved! In other words, New Covenant love for others is "astonishing," just as Christ's love for me astonishes me!

Could it be the reason there is so little love among Christians today is because we have ceased to be astonished at Christ's love for us?

Too often we pastors and church leaders want to focus people on "their love for God," but when I read the Scriptures and the prayers of the apostles, their concern was not so much that believers increase in their love for God as it was that believers grow in their comprehension of God's love for them.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . . that you may have the strength to comprehend . . . and know the love of Christ which surpasses your knowledge" (Ephesians 3:14, 18-19)
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

When we become more and more amazed at Christ's love for us, we then begin to understand that loving people in the New Covenant way is to surprise them with our love as we are surprised by God with His love for us.

In His Grace,



Benji Ramsaur said...

"But Christ's love for me hard to explain and understand. His love is so much stronger, and so much more powerful - and unexpected!. Thus, loving people the way Christ loved me is so much deeper, stronger and incredibly more powerful than we imagine. It is also surprising to those being loved! In other words, New Covenant love for others is 'astonishing,' just as Christ's love for me astonishes me!"

I love it Wade. Thank you for this point.

Mary Burleson said...

Enjoyed your post. I carry a bookmark in my Bible which has this verse:
"May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love." Ephesians 3:17 (Living)

Your post reminded me of how much I like this wording. It's good for me to remember and practice.
Mom/Mary B.

Rex Ray said...

Excellent post!

I believe the main reason we will be so happy in heaven is because we will finally know how much God loves us and being with him one on one...even though we don’t know how that's possible.

Ramesh said...

I freely admit that to understand and comprehend God's Love as how Our Lord Jesus Christ lived and lives is very difficult. There are lot of days, I just shake my head, for I truly do not understand.

But the important thing is, I am not fretting now as I used to before. I am confident that The Holy Spirit will reveal ALL to me. It is a matter of time and space. For now I breathe in and breathe out, Our Lord's Name.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

To love others as Christ loves me, means to sacrifice myself for their welfare and profit.

Dr. Paul Foltz

Lydia said...

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3

linda said...


Oh how I pray the church will return to proclaiming Christ and HIS LOVE FOR US rather than focusing solely on our own love for Christ.

Should we respond to His love by loving Him and others? Absolutely!!

But I doubt singing-praying-preaching about my love for Jesus will ever see a single soul brought to faith in Christ.

Our message must ever and always be about HIS great love!

jasonk said...

I saw a teenager wearing a t-shirt recently. It made me laugh out loud. I'll clean it up for your blog:
"Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're a jerk."
It is hard to love some people, especially fellow believers, because they are jerks.
I find that it is easier to love people who are different than me, especially non-believers, because they respond so postively to love. But believers who are jerks are hard to love, in my opinion, because they act as if they deserve the love God gives them. It is the self-righteousness they exhibit that makes it hard to love them. And it is that same self-righteousness that leads them to think, "it is no wonder that Jesus loves me." Which leads directly back to your post, Wade.
The phrase I am currently sick of hearing is "you deserve." I hear it on commercials all the time. "Get the credit/recognition/promotion/etc you deserve."
Our society's sense of entitlement has led to a lack of amazement at the love God showed for us through the gift of His son.
Great post, Mr. Burleson.

Former FBC Insider said...

I agree with you. Many times it's the unbelievers who are easier to love. The selfrighteousness gets in the way of the believer's ability to love others who are different from them, and then that runs over into their sour attitude.

Thanks Wade for another reminder of God's awesome love for me. I can't get my head around it somedays.

Ramesh said...

To love others as Christ loves me, means to sacrifice myself for their welfare and profit.
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3
My point is, I understand all this in my head, but this has not penetrated my heart. If it did, my life and outlook should be truly transformed. Maybe it does in stages or bit by bit.

But the question is, why don't we see this in all the professing Christians, in their lives.

What is the difference between a believer and a non-believer? Somewhere Paul states, that he would be the most deceived if his belief in Our Lord Jesus Christ was all in vain, as non-believers think. From a non-believer's perspective, all this is foolish and that we [Christians] are all under illusion and probably deceived. We do not have anything tangible to show. But it's ALL FAITH. The only way the world will know of Our Lord Jesus Christ is from our LOVE.

This is the biggest weakness and stumbling block for lot of Christians (me included). We profess, we speak, we teach, but we do not live what we profess, we do not live what we speak, we do not live what we teach ...

If we did, the world will be transformed.

This is why, I do not believe in all GCR and other man led activities. All it needs is one person at a time to lead lives fully in Christ. And this would transform the world.

Not leaders, not pastors, not pontificators, not mega-churches, not glitz, not marketing, not conferences ...

A single person at a time being truly transformed and living a life fully in Christ. This where the true revolution is.

Steve Young said...

Enjoyed these last two posts. Have you read Larry Crabb's book - The Pressure's Off? A really good read about the very topic you are discussing.

Steve in Montana

greg.w.h said...

I believe the simplest of changes in how we respond to the situations around us could accomplish the greatest result:

When we notice a situation where someone is struggling with life, we should quickly, intuitively determine what WE would do to address the situation and, if possible, write that down. Do it quickly while the thought is still fresh.

Now take that written thought to God and confirm that he wants us to do what we thought to do through prayer. If he agrees with us, then do it. If he leads us otherwise--he is omniscient and we aren't after all--then adjust to his leadership and do that instead.

The great thing about this process is that if we will practice it daily, we open up ourselves to God creating the change in us that causes us to be more like Jesus Christ. And even if we were to misunderstand the leadership--as long as we're not intentionally gaming the system like our remaining sin nature will try to convince us to do--the process itself humbles us before God and gives him a reason to extend his blessing on us and his DIRECTNESS with us so that our understanding becomes improved.

Imagine if we became so sensitive to God's direction that we could be instantly obedient to the slightest nudges to act and we gave up our self-determination to solve the problem in the way that seems right to us. Who would benefit the most from that change? We would as God softens our hearts and as we experience in greater intimacy--through obedience--the love he already has for us as we practice His love for others with them.

I know the temptation is to find the flaw with this approach: that someone will game the system WITH US and take advantage of our "love". In reality, though, according to the Bible it is HIS KINDNESS that leads us to repentance. Perhaps when he is able to faithfully reproduce his loving kindness in US, we can also be instruments of reconciliation both with the world and, perhaps even more importantly, with each other.

Kind of reminds you of this, doesn't it:

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life"
--St. Francis of Assisi

Greg Harvey

Tom Kelley said...

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

--Mark Hall, Casting Crowns

Ramesh said...

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
-- Teresa of Avila

Anonymous said...

I think the reason the Body is so crippled and diseased is because so many parts still say, "I have no need of you!" Whether it's the CEO of Church Inc. (clergy/laity) claiming a "calling" that no other gift of the Spirit can claim, or one half calling the entire other half it's assistant (male/female division) and perpetual child, the parts of the Body have forgotten that they are all of ONE substance, ONE Spirit, with only ONE Head.

Christiane said...

St. Francis of Assisi left this written testimony of how the Lord called to him:

"The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way:
While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers.
And the Lord, Himself, led me among them and I had mercy upon them.
And when I left them, that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body;
and afterward I lingered a little and left the world. "

For those who may not understand, the term 'left the world' means that Francis sought to give up the things of this world and to follow the Way of the Lord unrestricted by worldly possessions.

This speaks to me of Lottie Moon, who did, at the end of her life, give up the 'things of this world', so that more of her beloved Chinese could live.

In doing this, she is a testimony of the 'Chesed' of God: that 'Loving-Kindness' that overflows all earthly boundaries in its abundance.

She gave, in a time of deadly famine, her own food to the Chinese people that she loved,
and so, after experiencing the effects of pro-longed starvation herself, this blessed Saint
'lingered a while, and left the world'.

Pax Christi,
Love, L's

linda said...

Can we back the truck up a moment?

I'm sure glad I don't live where some of you seem to--with an unloving Body of Christ in your midst.

In our town, the Body:

feeds the hungry

provides homes--not shelters--for homeless families

provides free medical care and pays on hospital bills

provides free daycare

provides clothing

pays utility bills

provides scholarships

provides and pays for summer camps for at risk kids

repairs homes and furniture

Now, I am sure we don't run our churches the way some folks want us to run them, but that does not equate with being unloving.

We preach an exclusive (Jesus is the only way) gospel, but that is not unloving.

Paula, I do not find the Body of Christ so crippled and diseased, as you put it. The clergy/laity issue and the male/female issue are differences of opinion on the interpretation of scripture, not personal attacks.

So how about it folks--rather than trash talking the Body, how about some positives you see in it?

Anonymous said...

Hi linda,

I'm looking at the big picture, not denying that there are still pockets of real Christianity here and there. But the clergy/laity and male/female divisions are tearing it apart at the seams.

So many people are reporting abuse at the hands of either clergy or spouse or both, that I cannot call these things matters of opinion. And yes, having studied these issues, there is a clear enablement of abuse rooted in these divisions.

I am happy that your local group is not abusing or telling half the believers that certain spiritual gifts are not for them. But for too many believers it is reality, and it is doing severe damage to the Body.

So for the sake of these abused ones, I must report what I see, and do everything I can to expose such things in the hope of preventing more.

linda said...

Paula, I appreciate your kind response.

But in no way is it either abuse or enabling of abuse to believe that only men may be ordained. (And while I am moving toward favoring women's ordination, I find the suggestion that to disagree with it is enabling or abusive to be--well, abusive and insulting to those who in good faith believe differently.)

In no way is it either abuse or enabling of abuse to believe in differing gender roles being ordained by God.

Now, certainly those beliefs can be hijacked to support abuse, just as Paul's writings could be hijacked to support slavery.

But equalitarian beliefs can also be hijacked to wrongly force women and men into roles those individuals may not want.

Let's take a different topic--say baptism by immersion. Clear it up for me if I am wrong, but it sounds like you are saying that if you believed baptism by sprinkling was "kosher" and another believer held only to immersion, that believer would be abusing you in some way.

I would like to see the Body move from dealing with differences in understanding the scripture by labelling those with disagree with as "bad" and us as "good" to practicing the love and respect we wish to receive.

So I, too, am looking at the bigger picture. I look around the world and see the Body struggling mightily to care for those that have need, to share the gospel, and to rejoice in the love of God.

They may not always do it the way I would prefer they do it, but they do it. And that is ok. Who ever said only my--or your--or Pastor Wade's--or whoever's--way is the only right way?

After all, whatever the issue, chances are there is a part of the Body that agrees with me. Rather than bring dissension to the part I am in, should I be at odds with it, I can always come alongside that part that disagrees with me.

God didn't make all flowers roses. And I don't believe all branches of the Body have to embrace the feminist point of view (or immersion or whatever issue) or be unloving.

Surely there is room in the Body to respectfully disagree, knowing that someday we will all find out where we erred.

Peace! And yes, there are lots of those pockets of health in the Body!

linda said...

Woops! Cannot type straight today.

Paula, the above post should read "come along side those that agree with me."

Maybe that will make more sense:)

Anonymous said...


I realize I tend to write concisely, so I hope that by further explanation I can shorten the distance on those long leaps you took from my earlier post. :-)

Systems can foster abuse. If men believe they have authority over other men and all women, those other men and women are at risk. This in no way guarantees that abuse of the overt kind will occur, but it gives such abuse an excuse; it enables it. In contrast, if all are equal, then none have been given sanction to rule over others. There are simply too many accounts of people being victimized and silenced because of the entitlement the system gives their abusers: do what I say or God will punish you, you're being divisive, "touch not God's anointed", I have the final say, etc. etc. etc.

So the example you gave of baptism doesn't fit at all. Baptism does not give any class of people authority over any other class.

And I cannot fathom how equality can be "hijacked to support abuse", since it gives no one authority on a permanent or intrinsic basis. Each person leads in their area of expertise or gifting, and defers in areas of weakness. This is how the Body, and marriage, was meant to function.

I hope to have cleared up any misunderstandings. Again, this is not about mere opinions but about systems which create power of some over others.

As for "gender roles ordained by God", I haven't found any in scripture. Please see my blog for articles on this deep and wide-ranging topic, or feel free to email me from there.

Anonymous said...

Woulda been nice if I gave a link!

my blog

For a good summary of what I'm talking about here, please see: my book, Nicolaitan: Power and Control in Christianity

Christiane said...

On Finding God After A Long Search

"Too late have I loved You,
O Beauty so ancient,
O Beauty so new.
Too late have I loved You!
You were within me but I was outside myself,
and there I sought You!
In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things You have made.
You were with me,
and I was not with You.
The things You have made kept me from You,
the things which would have no being
unless they existed in You!
You have called,
You have cried,
and You have pierced my deafness.
You have radiated forth,
You have shined out brightly,
and You have dispelled my blindness.
You have sent forth Your fragrance,
and I have breathed it in,
and I long for You.
I have tasted You,
and I hunger and thirst for You.
You have touched me,
and I ardently desire Your peace."

Ramesh said...

Off Topic:

Founders Ministries Blog > A long journey in church discipline-Pt. 1.
Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. If you show up long enough you get to see some special things. One of the greatest blessings of my pastoral ministry at Grace has been unfolding over the last 6 months and culminated last Sunday night. A man that we had been forced to remove from our membership due to unrepentant, public, scandalous sin was restored to our fellowship after living for more than 15 years in the far country. He has given me permission to tell part of what happened. It is a great story of God's great grace.

Christiane said...

I have always believed that, when important decisions are made, one must consider the effects on: the young among us, the elderly , and the 'most vulnerable' to discrimination, regardless of their situations.

Recently, I was not 'astonished, or surprised' to learn of the 'disfellowshipping' of a church by the SBC. But I was much saddened. I have tried to 'sort out' this sadness. I believed and still believe that somehow, another way could have been found, between the two extremes 'accepting everything as it was' and 'disfellowshipping'.

And I think I have discovered something: there is indeed much that can be done that both honors integrity and truth in rejecting sin, and also honors the dignity of every person as beloved of the Lord and worthy of our love, and our compassionate care..

I took some time to examine what my own faith was doing. I knew my Church is very up-front and honest about homosexual practices being sinful. But I wanted to know about the pastoral care given to people who have expressed a homosexual orientation, particularly the young.
And I found something that I would like to share:

This is from a letter by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops to the families of our Catholic people who have expressed a homosexual orientation. The title is simply:
" Always Our Children "

The ending is addressed to these individuals personally. It reads:

"Though at times you may feel discouraged, hurt, or angry, do not walk away from your families, from the Christian community, from all those who love you. In you God's love is revealed. You are always our children."

Imagine. Instead of telling them they have no fellowship with the Christian community, it begs them not to leave because they've been hurt by our own lack of caring, that they are loved as 'ours', our children.

I have discovered that there is also a spirit of true repentance in my Church for having not cared properly for those with homosexual orientations and for their families in the past.

As the letter from the Bishops says, these people are 'always our children.' I love that. It speaks to me of the depth of Christ's compassionate love for all of us who struggle. And how we must not forget the ones in our Christian family who need our care the most. They are, in their vulnerability, most especially, 'ours'.

There are many Christian communities that offer 'integrity and honesty about sin' without rejecting the sinner. There are options, and models used which might be adapted someday, in ways acceptable to conservatives, so that, they also, may expand ways to minister to those who struggles are not 'as acceptable' as those sins we all struggle with. In repentance, my own Church has slowly grown in the ways it reaches out, taking positive action to face the greater difficulties to be be overcome in serving ALL of our brothers and sisters. Love, L's

believer333 said...

"When we become more and more amazed at Christ's love for us, we then begin to understand that loving people in the New Covenant way is to surprise them with our love as we are surprised by God with His love for us."

Excellent post, Wade. Thank you!

"To love others as Christ loves me, means to sacrifice myself for their welfare and profit."

Yes, Dr. Foltz, Christ did not come to be served but to serve and give Himself for the benefit of humanity and all who will receive. Excellent word!

believer333 said...

"But in no way is it either abuse or enabling of abuse to believe that only men may be ordained. "

Linda, to the average Christian woman who has no desire to serve in leadership and has not been called to do so, it doesn't matter. However, to women who have indeed been called by God to lead, preach, teach and in other ways minister by the HS to the body of Christ, the belief that they cannot and certainly cannot be recognized or supported in doing so (the meaning of ordination) because of their gender, is deeply abusive to their lives. When God puts gifts, skills and callings in a persons life, not to heed these things loses life for them. When we follow God's calling it brings great joy and liveliness to us and others who will receive it. To deny these women is spiritual abuse of a particularly horrible nature IMO.

Christiane said...


"He loved us first.
And we,
do we return that love.
or give some other thing?

Ah! That's the sting!

Loving, detached and humble.
Here do we stumble!
Faith, hope and love,
God's gift from above.

“What is love?” He asked.

Love is patient,
love is kind.

As though He were blind,
He accepts the hurts and blows.
Only the Son of God knows.

He bore our sins
and all the shame,
praying all the time.
And we like him can do the same
in solitude sublime.

Holy Mother Teresa,
wounded with love was she.
She loved him with a burning love
in His humanity.

“All blessings come through Him”,
she said
“as water from the well”!
“Let Thy grace be in us Lord,
as the fountain,
springing up into life eternal!”

Our Father John, he tells us.
“He loved us first,
for us he thirst”.

Shall we not love him then!
He brings us thro’ the darkest night,

“fired with love’s urgent longings”.

Then inflows the light.

What peace, love and delight,
in that heavenly space,
“ah! the sheer grace”
for the whole human race,
caught up in God’s Mercy Divine."

from: Glimpses of Heaven
By Sr. Mary Catharina

feetxxxl said...

the thing that i find inspiring is that in christ giving us a new commmandment he is saying that thru grace you can love as i loved..........you also can GODLOVE.

"i want to live like a child of the light i want to live like jesus"......becomes......"i want to love like the child of the light i wqnt to love like jesus"

so now thru faith thru his grace of light yoke and easy burden we are able to love as jesus loved...........we have been given entrance to surrenderingly be the love of the triune god.

of course this means loving ourselves with that same love as we love................

feetxxxl said...

that 3rd commandment sets up a new paradign. because not only are we to godlove, ourselves and others that we automatically love but also to love the unlovable with that same love............the uncooperative neighbor, the unruly relative,the alcoholic street person on your block, the thief that just rensacked your house,the insensitive driver who just cut you off, the member of your church that you are at odds with, the bully of your fifth grade.........and of course all the social paraiahs such as terrorists, convficts,organized crime members, etc.

just to say we chose to surrender to godloving them, to even consider godloving them as we love ourselves is a challenge.