Usually, it’s when I’m particularly devoted to being right today, and the Spirit is instead after something else.
You’d think God would be very devoted to being right since, after all, God is almost by definition, as the Creator of reality, right about it. But it turns out that God’s priorities are different, much of the time.
In the last few years, a friend at church has brought us a challenge, to choose a “word for the year” in January, a word which would stand for a goal or a purpose or an aspiration. Sometimes I haven’t been able to choose one, but this year I chose “beloved.”
Not so much that I’m beloved by God (although standing in grace I believe I am!), but that everyone is beloved by God. Not because everyone is so very loveable, but because God is love…and he made us to love us.
While I confess that being beloved by God doesn’t take the place of an individual responding to God’s love, I am also admitting that if I am a follower of Jesus, then I need to take into account the “belovedness” of everyone I meet. They are each owed that status, and yes, that should make a difference in how I consider them in my mind and heart.
In my dedication to being right all the time, I sometimes forget that.
Sometimes, I become aware that my judgment of another person has run up against God’s prior consideration of them as beloved – that’s the standoff in my heart between me and the Spirit.
I met this standoff in the pages of scripture today. In John 5, Jesus is being hassled by the religious leaders because he healed a man on the Sabbath. Actually, he not only healed this disabled man, but he told the man to “pick up your mat and walk.” I’m not sure how the leaders felt about the healing, and the walking, but the carrying of the mat definitely fit in the confines of the definition for work, and on that score, the man was violating the Sabbath. Asked about it, the former invalid reported that the man who healed him told him to do it, and he was of a mind to do what that man said!
When they found out it was Jesus, the religious leaders entered into a debate with him about it. And this debate comes to a conclusions when Jesus says, “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life….I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” (John 5:39,40,42)
They do not have the love of God in their hearts.
That’s the judgment on them. They don’t believe in him, they won’t follow him, they won’t accept them, and all because God’s love isn’t within them.
I double-checked that in the Greek. I wondered, was Jesus saying, that they did not love God (the love for God was not in them)? Or is he really saying, as I understood at first, that their problem was they had not downloaded, so to speak, the kind of love God has into their own hearts?
It is the second. It is a judgment on them by Jesus that their hearts are devoid of the love God has for others. Though they are very religious; though they search the scriptures, and wait for the Messiah, and keep the law and know the rules…they are missing something fundamental.
God’s love for others.
And so they missed the belovedness of the disabled man, and why God would want to set him free without waiting for another day. As they missed the belovedness of the woman caught in adultery, or Zacchaeus or Levi, tax collectors for the occupiers against their own people. As they missed even the belovedness of the Samaritans…of the Romans…of themselves, to God.
So this year I see it. And when there is a conflict between belovedness and something else, I am not so quick to dismiss the belovedness. As Jesus says here, it is the necessary equipment to understanding the rest.
May it be so for us.