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The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love

March 17, 2011

Jonathan Leeman at 9Marks blog posts a preface to his book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline.  This preface never made the book, so he posts it in response to a book that some guy from Michigan has written (perhaps you’ve heard of it…).  The preface says, in part:

There are probably a number of reasons why we confuse love with something like gelatin. For one, love has remarkable elasticity. It molds itself around the most unlikely objects. It’s patient and kind. It’s long-suffering and tender. It does not insist on its own way but tries to conform itself to the beloved for the beloved’s good. Indeed, it sacrifices itself for the beloved’s good. Is there anything in the universe so wonderful as love? Yet it’s because love is self-sacrificing, even for its enemies, that we’re tempted to think that it doesn’t have strong edges or a solid center. When we give way to that sort of thinking, we move from talking about love as a glob of gelatin to love as infinite space. It becomes all encompassing. It’s said to be everywhere. Of course, when people say it’s everywhere, we eventually realize it’s nowhere. Then we stop believing in love.

No, there’s a limit to love’s conformities. Some tolerances it cannot grant, some allowances it won’t accept. Love won’t delight in evil, market deception, or trade in untruth. Love rejoices in the truth.

In fact, truth and truth in its different forms, like righteousness and justice, give love its structure—its resources and rules. Ultimately, if not immediately, love demands the truth. It requires righteousness. It judges injustice. Yet it’s at just this point that our understanding of love often gets tripped up. We think of love as willing to overlook treachery and betrayal. Love is forgiving, we say. But this is too simplistic. Love always addresses the betrayer. It faces down the fabricator. It may persist in loving, but it does not abide pretence. It may grant forgiveness, but it will not condone corruption. It commands repentance and calls for atonement. Love always hopes, but it doesn’t bury its head in the sand. It’s realistic and rugged. It counts the cost and then sometimes perseveres, sometimes walks away. How strange love is.


From → Church Life, Theology

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