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Love is god

Last week I was too unwell to post, and am grateful to Chalcedon for posting in my absence. My sinuses having cleared, I can get back to posting, at least on Saturdays.

Our good friend Illero has recently commented on the tone that has entered into the discussions, and our other good friend, Bosco, has said it is all his fault. I am not sure that attributing ‘fault’ is quite the thing, and am sure that when it comes to the question of who Jesus is, and how we are to be saved, men will wax eloquently, and sometimes with asperity; it was always thus. Or was it?

We can see, as Geoffrey pointed out, that as early as the time of St John, men divided the Church over the question of who Jesus was; but we can see, in Acts, that there was another way of doing it. Here, I bring in, as so often, my beloved St Peter I love the Peter of the Gospels not because he is the Prince of the Apostles (though he is certainly their leader) or because he is the rock upon which the Church was founded (although he was), but because of the wonderful example of Christian love he set. He lived what St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. We can have all the gifts of God, but if we have not ‘love’ they are nothing. And, for those who go on about ‘love’ having to be tough and hard, let us all recall what St Paul says about it:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

It is the way of men to want to say that harshness can be inspired by love, but I leave on the table these words of St Paul, and see nowhere a justification of such a version of love.

Neither do I see it in the career of beloved Peter. Impetuous and brave, Peter would have charged a legion in hot blood: he would not have wondered whether there was a better way of achieving the desired result, or even whether it was the right legion at the right time, one suspects; his great heart wanted to serve the Lord, and through Grace, he was the first who saw in Jesus the Christ. Despite the warning from his Lord that Satan intended to sift him, Peter thought nothing of declaring that he would never betray his Lord; yet that very night he did so thrice before the cock crowed. When the going got tough, the tough got going.

Yes Peter’s was a true faith, and his toughness survived this most severe of tests. He could have been consumed by guilt and shame, he could have turned away and found a new master, or have gone back to his old life. He didn’t. He stayed in Jerusalem that sabbath, and on the following day, acting on the witness of a woman, went to the tomb where his life was changed for ever. The Risen Lord forgave him and charged him with feeding his sheep. So it was, that after Pentecost Peter stood there and declared: (Acts 2:38):

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In his first epistle, he guides us well”

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Do we do this? Do men look at us and see, by our love, each for the other, that we are Christ’s. Or, when we argue that the words of Jesus are meant only for Christians do we say through our want of love, “you are not a Christian therefore I am not bound to love you”; where then is the injunction to love even our enemies?

What an example he sets us, as the chief of the Apostles, when he writes:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly,[a] not for dishonest gain but eagerly;nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

But, as good shepherds do, he warned us against the wolves, and as St John did, against those who deceive the elect.

It is in these last sense I take the disputation among the learned men here.

But shall we grow in the Spirit if this is our main fare? God is love, we are told, and we know what love is – long-suffering. Each of us has his or her experience of the Lord, who is infinite. I sometimes wonder whether we are not all like partially sighted people in a dark room with a giant elephant, each of us has some part of the beast, and one, who feels the tusks, tells us of the hardness and coldness of the animal, whilst he who has the trunk tells us of its flexibility and bristles, whilst he who has the leg tells us of its width, strength and muscles. Each knows for sure the nature of the elephant. Perhaps the elephant is amused?

Peter showed us an example, one which should frighten none of us. He shows us how we can be deeply in love with God, but fail, and get up and, through faith, try and try against until at last we come to the finishing line. There we shall be asked how it was with us, and what witness we have given to the hope that is in us. May we all be able to say that we offered love as the token of our faithfulness. Remember, He who is Lord of all loved us first, and though we were far off and in our sins, He died that we might believe and have life eternal: this was His act of love. Can we do less?