7/14 Readings: The Demands of Love

5 Pentecost

Amos 7:7-17 [Deut. 30:9-14]
Ps. 82 [Ps. 25:1-9]
Col. 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

With the image of a plumb-line God measures the conduct of King Jeroboam and the priesthood of Amaziah.  God measures church and state and finds both corrupted, on the verge of desolation, a land about to be laid waste.  “If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:2) This judgement, in a sense, pertains to every time and every place because humans fall short of the glory of God.  “The LORD looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise, if there is one who seeks after God.  Everyone has proven faithless; all alike have turned bad; there is none who does good; no, not one” (Ps. 14:2-3).  Understandably, this bad news is not well received.  Amaziah speaks to the prophet Amos, “Never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom” (Amos 7:12).

The straight edge of God’s righteousness, though a perennial judgment against human sin, has another aspect: the possibility of inward appropriation by grace, which is divine love poured into the heart.  If what God demands is what the heart desires, the sense of what “ought to be done” is subsumed by a yet stronger sense that one has “the grace and power faithfully to accomplish” what moral duty requires [Collect].  God’s will, therefore, is not an arbitrary imposition of an alien will upon a human agent.  God’s will regarding “what things ought to be done” corresponds perfectly to the moral and spiritual well-being of the individual to whom it is directed.  This is why it is possible to “love what you command.”

The path toward a perfect correspondence between what God requires and what the heart desires is life-long.  We have arrived in Christ, and yet we have not fully arrived.  We press on.  We try.  We fail.  We succeed.  We stumble and fall.  We stand again seeking forgiveness and strength to meet the days ahead.  Thus, it remains necessary to retain the language of “duty” and “command.”  In so far as our love is insufficient or misdirected or warped, God’s will may feel like an imposition.  Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Again, and again, Christians are reminded of the summary of the law: the twofold love of God and one’s neighbor.  This is not, of course, a summons to a vague and undefined affection.  Love makes demands, but these demands are within reach because “the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deut. 30:14).

God prepares good works to walk in.  God reveals a way, a path, a purpose, and yet “all the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness” (Ps. 25:9).  There are times when the correspondence between what “ought to be done” and what the heart desires is so close that we seem only to love.  What we do is what we love.  What we do is what we want.  These are beautiful moments in which we float along the current of God’s grace and will.  But it is not always so.  Sometimes love is hard and heartbreaking.  Consider the Good Samaritan.  He found a man half dead along the side of the road.  “When he saw him, he was moved with pity” (Luke 10:33).  Love compelled him to act and take risks.  He went to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds, applied bandages, put him on his animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Love is pity, but it is work and duty as well.

Look It Up:

Deuteronomy 30:11

Think About It:

It is hard, but not too hard for you.



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