If you are going to read only one post I have written this year, I invite you to consider this one, since I am really opening up myself this time.
I have always held this to be true: if you think you have seen and tasted enough of Christ, just wait until he strips away your pride one layer by another. As long as you are willing, you will see how much more He actually is. Years after years, this claim only proves itself to be more solid than ever. On this year’s reflection, I deal with the issue of love; the digging of my wounds; and the matter of death.
. . . On Love . . .
The most quoted verses on love, following John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13, is probably 1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us.
For years, I understood it this way: Because God loves me, I should love people.
In other words, it is like a win-win deal: God, since you have done this to me, I’ll do this to others.
The words “command” and “ought to” in other related verses (John 13:14; Mark 12:31; 1 John 4:21, 1 John 4:11; ) further justify this way of thinking.
But “We love because he first loved us” is not a deal. Rather, it is a cause-and effect.
It isn’t until these past few years have I finally grasped the cause-and-effect relationship on our spiritual life: feed on Christ and the fruit (of the spirit) will naturally come. There is absolutely no way you can bear any fruit when you are detached from the root (Jesus Christ), “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
In other words, try living your spiritual life by human effort; you will run out of gas pretty soon.
Well, the same on love.
Feed on divine love, and your love for others will naturally grow.
Yet try loving people by your own effort; you will run out of love-gas right away.
In other words, the principle is simply “Loved people loved people.”
Sounds all too easy right, but this is indeed the most incredible truth I have learned this year. Ephesians 5:1 says we are beloved children. As loved children, we love others. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else,” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
I love how Scott Sauls says, God is not just loving, God is love. If you have experienced His love in Christ and continuously immerse yourself in His love, loving people should come naturally. You – just – can’t – help – it. You just want to keep loving people.
Of course I have made it look too simple, since love also consists of self-denial; that, takes a life-long training.
. . . On Wounds and Healing . ..
Throughout the years, I have learned to let God deal with my sin more and more willingly. “Where sin runs deep, Your grace runs deeper” has finally become a personal experience for me.
But one thing I had not let him do until recently, was to let him deal with my wounds.
Sin and wounds are not the same, yet I had been confusing the two.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I mistook sins as wounds, so I, in the name of love, covered up my wounds without actually having God deal with them.
Where there are wounds, there comes the need of healing. Healing, like Scripture says, requires reconciliation and forgiveness.
Yet like Marshall Segal writes, “Reconciliation does not require closeness. It does require forgiveness and brotherly love.” I, though, mistook reconciliation, forgiveness, and brotherly love as closeness.
And since I believe a follower of Jesus should always strive for reconciliation and forgiveness, and because I thought these two equal to closeness, I felt incredibly guilty every time I had the thought of leaving the situation.
Looking back, I cannot actually believe how many lies I have told myself and my close ones in order to run away from my wounds. To repress my pain. To justify my ignorance.
Likewise, another common mistake is to assume forgiveness as “I’m okay”, even when things are not okay.
When this “I’m okay” becomes habitual, you are essentially preventing God from intervening and dispensing grace, meaning you are not really depending on Him completely.
It means you don’t really believe God knows the best (The old me would have never said this, because I never liked the phrase “God knows what’s best for you.” I rolled my eyes every time I heard that phrase, because it just sounds too self-centered. )
But now I have realised that, God does know and want what is best for you, because ultimately, it is for His purpose.
Like Beth Moore says, “A broken heart heals when we allow the healing to go as deep as the wound went.” Wounds that have been accumulated for one year, two years, even seven years, or a life-time. I am so glad I have finally, after ages, allowed Jesus Christ to dig up my wounds and actually deal with them. I would have never realised my wound has been so much deeper than what I thought it was if it wasn’t His active pursuit.
I am no longer hiding, defending. and pretending. I find myself as I am found in Him. I am grateful that grace, as a person, has picked me up once again.
“My life is a witness to vulgar grace—a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request—“Please, remember me”—and assures him, “You bet!” A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.” – Brennan Manning. All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (pp. 193-194).
. . . On Death and Resurrection . . .
These past few months, two of my friends passed away because of cancer. They were both around my age. It is crazy how cancer drains people. People age so fast within a year, a month, and even a week.
I am much closer to the girl who passed away later, but both of them are known for their remarkably joyful spirits, often expressed through their genuine laughter and smiles, even in the midst of struggles.
Although I have known the girl for only about 10 months, I got to become much closer to her during summer when she was in the hospital.
It is easy to quote the psalmist to say joy comes in the morning. Nevertheless, the sorrow you see in her family may tell a different story.
But I do believe in the communion of saints. I really do; it is not some bizarre abstract metaphor. Therefore one thing I know I can do, is to live on with the joy and strength that she embodies when she was still here on earth. Her joy is my joy, and her strength is my strength.
I don’t care about what “religious” or “spiritual” view you hold; if you have felt the heavy weight of pain that comes with separation and death, you will h-o-p-e, in desperation, that death will be crushed to death.
Whether you agree or not, I believe humans are created with a body that feels the pain of the flesh, a heart with emotional capacities, and a spirit that connects with God.
If even in the midst of all the brokenness in this world, you still think this life is worthy to be lived and celebrated, then an expectation of a life that is everlasting shouldn’t come surprising to you.
Otherwise I really don’t know what you can be living for when there is nothing to look forward to.
When we Christians talk about eternal life, we are not just talking about the length of life – we are talking about the quality of life as well.
Eternal life is not (merely) life after death, it is God’s divine life flowing within you since the moment you receive it.
Humans currently are just on a detour.
Many people, including my dear agnostic friends, believe there is a God, but this God, in their eyes, is a god that embodies hatred and death. You know what, if this is indeed what God is like, I won’t worship this god, too. I absolutely won’t.
But I worship the God who is love and life. His name is Jesus Christ.
“Describe the God you’ve rejected. Describe the God you don’t believe in. Maybe I don’t believe that God either. ” – Tim Keller