• Steven Marsh

Learning From and With The Triune God of Unconditional Love–Breaking Out of Predictable and Ro

You can live your life out of a place of love, yes, even unconditional love. Jesus has given us the grace we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. In Christ, we can do what needs to be done. Loving God. Loving others.

To experience love and love, we need a personal encounter with God and one that is ongoing. Believing is important, but unless beliefs transform us, beliefs are useless. In Jesus Christ, we are a new creation. A personal encounter with God leads us to participate with God in God’s mission. “In both Isaiah and Luke, personal encounter with God leads to missional engagement and is not an end in itself.”[1]A personal relationship with God is the means to break out of predictable and routine love.

William Carey had an ongoing personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Early on in his ministry, as an ordained Baptist minister in the late 18thcentury, Carey was at a gathering of ministers for a theological forum on a variety of issues. One of the senior ministers asked Carey for a theme to discuss to which Carey replied, “May we consider whether the command given to the apostles to teach all nations was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent.” Dr. Ryland promptly denounced Carey, “Sit down young man! When God chooses to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine!”

Simon Peter, like William Carey, had an ongoing personal encounter with Jesus. The story in Luke is set in the early days of Jesus’ ministry. After a day’s activity, Jesus paused at the lake of Gennesaret. Simon Peter, James, John and other fishermen had just returned from fishing all-night having caught no fish. The text intimates that Jesus was some distance away and a crowd had gathered around him to hear him teach. Jesus seized the moment to use a real-life situation to teach the disciples and crowd about his true identity. Shortly after Jesus and the crowd meandered over to Simon Peter and his partners, Jesus got into the boat and told Simon Peter to go out a way from the shore into deep water and cast his nets for a catch. Simon Peter did as Jesus asked and the text tells us that they caught so many fish their nets began to break. Simon Peter called to shore for his partners to come out and fill their boats. He had been a fisherman for years. Simon Peter knew his trade. But now, with his boats full to overflowing, he had a crisis of faith. Simon Peter didn’t believe that Jesus could get a catch of fish any more than he could. Simon Peter’s sin was his disbelief.

William Carey did not “sit down.” William Carey “stood up and stepped out” and founded the Missionary Society to India. Transformation occurs in everyday, real life situations through believing. Obeying Jesus and his Word moves us out of predictable and routine love to love that is self-giving, authentic and transformational. As Gradye Parsons reminds us in Our Connectional Church, showing up is more than half the battle for experiencing transformation when he writes, “The few members of Spring City Presbyterian Church showed up. Showing up may not seem like a large accomplishment, but it is. As the saying goes, 90% of life is showing up. The people of the church didn’t just show up at church, they showed up outside the four walls of the building where many people have negative views of a church they see as too judgmental. So, we have to overcome that perception by revealing a different picture of the church.”[2]Break out of predictable and routine love by believing that showing up changes things. This is Jesus’ promise to you.

[1]Mark Abbott in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 233.

[2]Gradye Parsons, Our Connectional Church(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 32.

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