So I had to stop and share one of the lovely things I received this Christmas – this sweet little book called The Power of Love by Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry. I actually had some moments to sit and drink coffee (yum) and finish the short read.
It is an encouraging and challenging book and a call to the church universal, not just the Episcopalian church, to remember our purpose as lights to the world in sharing the beautiful good news of Jesus Christ through love. He shares how the evidence of this love in action drew his parents in the days of segregation to the Episcopalian church during a communion service. His father, already a Christian, remarked “Any Church in which people of different races drink out of the same cup knows something about the gospel that I want to be a part of (p89).”
The Bible is full of truth that stands against the pressures of any unjust cultural movement of the time. It exposes evil and declares the truth of Jesus, the great equalizer. As Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Curry poses the question, “How do you follow Jesus in the Way of love in a world that is profoundly unloving?” I know it’s a heavy question that keeps me in prayer often. His answer is to keep our eyes focused on Jesus – namely His sacrificial love.
His excitement for the church to be what he calls “the Jesus movement” and to bring a revival of love to the world is contagious. He encourages us to meditate on Jesus, the God of love, in every situation as our first priority. Bishop Curry states, “God wants us to LIVE (p 46)”. And Jesus says the only was to truly start living is by coming to Him, receiving a free gift of salvation, and being born into a new family, a new life- an eternal life, a life of love (John 3:5-18).
And what greater example of true love is there than the sacrifice of the cross? No other religion has it. God Himself was born into His creation to suffer the same daily grind, and even more, to be killed brutally and bear the punishment for the sins of mankind- even though He had been the only perfect and blameless being on this earth. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).
I wonder what Bishop Curry would say, but I think my favorite book of the Bible for getting to know Jesus is the book of John. I love John’s writing style. I love that he starts his book with poetic imagery. But I love most of all his theme of life that runs through the book all the way up until the buried thesis statement at the very end of the book:
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in his name” (John 20:31).
I believe most people I talk to agree to the historicity of Jesus, and even that He was a great and loving guy. But the book of John challenges you to make a further decision: either Jesus was a good guy with some mental problems and delusions of grandeur, or He is who he says He is – God incarnate – the long awaited Messiah of the Old Testament, fulfilling prophecies recorded in over 2,000 years of writing in a statistical impossibility – that He overcame the grave, taking away man’s fear of death by actually physically raising from the dead and promising to do so to anyone who believes in Him.
BUT you can’t have any part in this Jesus movement, this life, this ultimate purpose of demonstrating love to the world until you first come to Him and let Him give you a free gift – a gift only free to us, for He paid dearly – taking on the sins of whole world, a scene the gospel accounts record as agony.
I’ve stopped watching a lot of news because it’s hard to find lovely things there… But the problems of this world just draw me closer to looking to Jesus – His hope and His cure He offers – His love. He has promised me an eternity of perfection, but even now He promises me a purpose, and He promises to give me the tools to walk through this often painful world with His help.
And so, like Bishop Curry paraphrases John 16:33 – Jesus tells us “don’t worry, be happy”.
I am convicted every day of falling short of reflecting Christ’s love in my daily Christian walk, but through the amazing grace and mercy of Jesus I can fall into the arms of my merciful Lord (2 Samuel 24:14) for forgiveness, for strength and encouragement – it is my favorite place of rest. The Lord’s mercies are indeed new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), and we find grace to continue to try and bring the Jesus movement to the world.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. 6Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Thank you God for Jesus – love personified.