Law or Love?
Powerful Lord, I am reminded that You are everlasting, great, loving, and wholly to be trusted. I praise You.
Read REVELATION 2:1-11
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
What is the relationship between law and love? Is it more important to show my children that I love them, or to teach them to do the right thing? In our congregations, is it more important that people revel in God’s love or that they shape their lives after the pattern of Christ? In many ways this is a false choice and yet many congregations (and families) seem to prioritize one over the other.
The congregation in Ephesus have gotten the “law” part right. They have established boundaries around what is right and wrong; they have tested the claims of others; and they have taken seriously the need for endurance in suffering. All this is good—but it appears that they have been infected with the pride that belonged to the city, the third largest in the Empire and the one that claimed pre-eminence in the region. Contrast the congregation at Smyrna, who receive no rebuke despite also living in a proud and wealthy city.
The Ephesians have forgotten two realities, one present and one future. The present reality is the reality of Jesus’ presence among them, “walking among the lampstands,” the same Jesus who was more than willing to eat with sinners, people with whom legalistic Pharisees would not associate. The future reality is the tree of life in “paradise,” the intimate walled garden in the loving presence of God. Our future with God is everywhere in the Bible characterized by joy, life and feasting as we revel in God’s love for us. Jesus came that we might have life, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10). People around us will only be drawn in if they see this quality of fullness and richness of our life together, but not if they see laws and legalism. Bees are attracted by honey, not vinegar.
What characterizes the congregation you belong to more—law or love? How can you discover together more of the one you are missing?
Father, in You I can live fully now and one day I will live forever. Truly, “For to me to live is Christ and die is gain.” Thank You, Lord.