Friday, March 28, 2014

Family Resemblance

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God: and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  — 1 John 4:7, NIV

Who really knows God?  We know that the only people who truly know God are those who have become Christians.  They want to know Him so they seek a relationship with Him.  Some of you might say that the people who truly know God are the people who have received the Lord Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and have made Him the center of their lives, or words to that effect.  Others of you might add either baptism, or church affiliation, or adherence to apostolic tradition, or holy living as an additional criterion, reasoning that sentiment, however pious, must find some concrete expression to be genuine. I’m sure there are many other views.

Who is Like God?
John reminds us that children bear a family resemblance to their parents.  If we are truly the children of the God of love, then we will also bear the marks of love.  Our first reaction to each other will be concern and support, our first reaction to sinners will be compassion and help, and our first reaction to strangers will be as to long-lost friends.  Maybe our doctrine isn’t complex enough to explain every case, but people who bear a strong family resemblance to God must bear a resemblance to each other as well.  We must allow God to be greater than our theology.

Human Reaction
Most people even think of Christianity as a means of obtaining things such as love, comfort, and freedom from pain; but it does not work that way.  Christianity offers all the benefits up front as a gift, which anyone with faith may have just for the asking.  Christian living is not a means for attaining something, but a means of thanking God for what we’ve already received.  We do not live a Christian life as if by doing so we could make God love us; we live a Christian life because we are grateful that He loved us first. 

At one point or the other in our childhood, we all witnessed a situation in which one kid hit another, the victim retaliated, and friends got involved until there was a general melee that an adult had to break up.  They were “taking up an offense.”  We do it as adults, too, but with insulting words and spiteful acts instead of fisticuffs, until we become paranoid and dread our neighbors.  Now imagine it the other way around: someone does a good deed, the beneficiary, not knowing who did it, retaliates by doing a good deed for someone else, then before long everyone gets involved until we are all living in a community of love and goodwill.  Shouldn’t we as regenerate Christians seek to be part of the second kind of chain reaction, which Jesus began at the cross? Or through our lack of participation, have we let Jesus die in vain?

A Godly Reaction
As Christians, we live our entire lives in grateful reaction to God’s love.  We have compassion for sinners, because God had compassion on us when we were sinners.  We sacrifice ourselves for others, because He sacrificed Himself for us.  We feed others and give them drink, because He fed us and gave us Living Water.  We give good gifts to the undeserving, because while we were undeserving, He gave us the greatest gift of all.  Our deeds earn us nothing because there is no way through our conduct that we could ever exceed the goodness that He has given us.

I remember as a kid when you moved to a new neighborhood and started attending a different school, you fell in with new friends.  Before long, you started to like the foods they ate, the television shows they watched, and the music they listened to—even if initially you didn’t like those things.  It is true: if you like someone, you grow to like everything about them and all the things they like.

And so it is with God. If you really are great friends with Jesus, you’ll gradually start hanging out with His crowd, and you’ll develop a taste for the things He likes.  If you truly love Jesus and hang out with Him a lot, shouldn’t this sacrificial love and all-encompassing compassion rub off on you at least a little bit?  If you like someone, you will become like that person.  If you love God, you will become like God.  If God loves the people around you, you will grow to love them too. You won’t be any more finicky than God about who you associate with, either.  As a child of the God of love, maybe we should make it our goal to strive to bear a resemblance to our Heavenly Father.

Scripture to Claim:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5:1-2

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