Formation

Four Ways to Walk in Love as Resurrection People

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With death’s stinger removed through the resurrection of Jesus, we come alive and find ourselves free to explore God’s new world. We believe deeply in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, but God offers resurrection not only as a doctrine to be believed but as a reality to be lived. We not only believe in the resurrection; we practice it. We walk in the way of resurrection to discover life, real life, abundant life, life everlasting, the life of the age to come.

The doorway into resurrection life is baptism.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Baptism is our Red Sea crossing. God has taken us out of Egypt with its slavery and bondage to sin and has led us to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

When we are plunged below the waters of baptism we are mystically baptized into the death of Jesus. The water becomes for us a grave where we die to our old life and our false self. When we come up out of the water we rise into the newness of Jesus’ own resurrection. Baptism offers us a new identity. We come through the water into a new family as citizens of God’s new world with a new identity. We are cross-shaped people. We are resurrection people. Jesus died and rose from the dead to forgive us of our sins, free us from our slavery, and fortify us in a way to walk in newness of life.

Jesus died and rose from the dead to forgive us of our sins, free us from our slavery, and fortify us in a way to walk in newness of life. Click To Tweet

As God’s people walking in the way of resurrection, we are invited by God’s Spirit to practice resurrection as people of love. Here are four ways to walk in love.

# 1 Prioritize the other

The world in which we live is saturated with selfishness. The consumer engines that drive our economy have polluted our culture with the toxins of me-first entitlement. From the first day of kindergarten (and perhaps even before then) little Johnny is unwittingly schooled in selfishness. Johnny’s lunch box is placed in his backpack. He arrives at school and hangs up his backpack on the hook identified by his name. Johnny promptly finds his desk with his name on it where he sits down to do his work. He selects a pencil from his pencil box labeled (again) with his name and the first thing he writes on his piece of paper is “Johnny.” Perhaps teachers structure kindergarten classes this way because 5 year-olds only have the capacity to think primarily of themselves. Maybe. But Johnny’s teacher will work hard to convince little Johnny that he has to share the swings at recess.

This example isn’t a critique of elementary education as much as it is an example of the world we live in. Little Johnny grows up to be Mr. Johnny, a middle manager in a dead end job that he hates. He drinks a bit too much and his small team at work makes fun of him behind his back, because he only shows up to work for the paycheck. Fortunately the Johnnys of the world don’t dominate the workplace, because many people have found other incentives or regimens to curtail their self-absorbed ways. Nevertheless our unhealthy preoccupation with ourselves—our drive to satisfy our wants and desires—remains present in our world. Jesus shines the light of his love into this dark place and calls us out. He tells us the greatest of all moral commands is to love God with all we are and all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, Jesus calls us to orient our lives and prioritize our loves around love for God and love of neighbor. We demonstrate our love for God by our love for other people. We do this by prioritizing others over ourselves.

We demonstrate our love for God by our love for other people. Click To Tweet

#2 Love your enemies

We not only love the other, the people we go to church with, the people in our social circle of friends. We also love our enemies. If you don’t have any enemies, think about the people who for whatever reason don’t like you. Love them. Our world is run on team-sport animosity where we label our tribe the “good guys” and we label those people over there who are different than us the “bad guys.”  The antagonism between Republicans and Democrats, elephants and donkeys, has risen to the cultural surface these day as the most visible example of the toxic energy generated by treating the other with contempt.

Jesus shows us a better way. Jesus teaches us to love not only people like us, not only people who love us, but even people who are different, people we are supposed to be against. Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:43-46).

The way of love in following Jesus is the way of tearing down antagonisms and walls that divide. This world without antagonistic walls doesn’t mean we will always agree with our enemies. But we are not called to agree with them; we are called to love them. We love our enemies by setting aside our judgment and listening to them, working hard to understand where they are coming from. We love them by seeing the world from their perspective. We love them by showing respect, even in the face of disagreement.

#3 Reject codependency

Jesus leads us into a life where we love everyone, the freaks and geeks, the lonely and the losers, the outcasts and the obnoxious. This kind of love requires the rejection of codependency, because sometimes love says “no.” Codependency sounds like love and feels like love, but it is a pathogen to the soul. Codependency uses the language of love between two people, but in all actuality it reflects a relationship that is so enmeshed in an unhealthy singularity that personal responsibility is left behind. The worse kind of codependent relationships exists where one person in the relationship is abusive or struggling with substance abuse.

The antidote to codependency is boundaries. According to Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their book Boundaries the issue is responsibility,

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”

Boundaries are not walls of antagonism. They are clear-cut lines of demarcation that identify who each person is in any given relationship. This kind of a love relationship reflects the Trinity. God is one in God’s essence and being, but the oneness of God does not blur out the distinctiveness of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit.

Creating emotional and relational boundaries can feel like hate to those who are on the other side of the line. However it isn’t motivated by hate, but by love, allowing both people to understand who they are and what they are each responsible for. Sometimes love in the way of Jesus means saying “no.” We say no to the destructive choices and habits of the other not to punish them, but to allow them to take responsibility for their actions.

Codependency sounds like love and feels like love, but it is a pathogen to the soul. Click To Tweet

#4 Extend mercy

In our desire to follow Jesus we will always love one another imperfectly. We need God’s mercy, which is why we regularly pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. The world has only seen one who loves perfectly and we are striving towards that perfection with honest imperfection along the way. We do want to follow Jesus by obeying all his commands, but we will fail. People outside of Christ will certainly leave moral flaws in their wake.

We don’t need to overlook the demands of following Jesus, but in light of all this imperfection we need to share the mercy we have received with others. Mercy flows directly from the love we have received from God. As Colin Gunton observed, “Mercy is the outworking in fallen time and history of the action of a God for whom love of the other is central to his being.” God exudes mercy. So should we.

“Mercy is the outworking in fallen time and history of the action of a God for whom love of the other is central to his being.” - Colin Gunton Click To Tweet

For Christians, the way of love implies that when we don’t know what else to do, we love by extending mercy. Love is the answer to all of our questions.

What about people of a different religion? Love them.
What about that Muslim family in my neighborhood? Love them.
What about people of a different sexual orientation? Love them.
What about immigrants? Love them.
What about the poor? Love them.
What about donkeys and elephants? Love them!

We do need to communicate the truth. But instead of “taking a stand for truth,” communicate the truth about Jesus in the context of mercy made known by love. After all, Jesus said all people will know we are disciples not by shouting the truth and calling out people’s failures, but rather by our love.

 

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