It is all about Love
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4: 7 – 21)
I realize that this is a rather long quotation; but when I started with “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God,” I didn’t seem to find a stopping point. I began thinking about our relationship with God as being established and grounded in love and how most people miss that point. Most people seem to extend the concept of obedience demanded by the Ten Commandments into our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our relationship with God then becomes obedience to dogma or doctrine rather than a love relationship. This happens easily because although we are spiritual beings we live in physical bodies and much that we observe is through the physical.
For example: The above quote has, in part, “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.” How do we, then, describe the Spirit working in our lives? Paul describes the working of the Spirit in us by a combination of physical and spiritual terminology. Physically Paul says to not live according to the flesh: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 16 – 23 NIV)
We see how difficult it is to describe behavior guided by the Spirit in terms that are purely spiritual and make no reference to the physical (in this case desires of the flesh). The problem quickly arises because we concentrate on the part of the passage that says to not satisfy the desires of the flesh and forget that the whole point is the walk by the Spirit. We make obedience to the idea of not doing certain fleshly things the point rather than walking by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is an exercise in love relationship and not an act of obedience to dogma or doctrine.
This concept is especially difficult to grasp for those who have been taught that obedience is the proper approach to religion and that relationship is expressed by obedience. I know of one way to remedy this situation. Develop the love relationship. This is done by confession of sin, repentance (desire to change and expression of that desire), and asking for forgiveness. This process, repeated as often as necessary, constantly increases the love relationship between Father and daughter or son. What this process does is transfer the concept of obedience to the concept of relationship. The concept of obedience builds a wall while the concept of confession builds a relationship. I realize that confession takes into account disobedience; but as time goes by confession deals with the disobedience and the love overcomes the sin until the relationship becomes everything and the sin falls away.
In the development of the love relationship there will be stages just as there are stages in the development of a child. One of these stages will be when you have the sense that you can do anything because you will always be forgiven. This stage is overcome or “gone through” when you realize that what you are doing that needs forgiveness is hurting God and others. That pain that has borne and is willing to continue to bear does not enhance the love between God and son or daughter. We then desire to not cause God pain and that area of sin falls away.
Another area of development is a feeling like you have never sinned. This is not true but the forgiveness of God is so awesome you might feel like you have never sinned. This is a good thing when taken in perspective. You are becoming more like Jesus who actually never sinned. Living in a state of forgiveness is much like having always lived without sin. This feeling, when taken in perspective, gives an increase in faith and a power in prayer. Keep going in the love relationship because it is all about love.