• Steven Marsh

The Unconditional Love of the Triune God Beckons Us To Serve–Praying. Loving. Participating.:

God’s kingdom comes near to every circumstance, when we take human need seriously. Retired pastor and author Gordon MacDonald tells the following story:

One time, twenty or so years ago, I was in Japan on a speaking tour with a close personal friend. He was a number of years older than I was. As we walked down the street in Yokohama, Japan, the name of a common friend came up, and I said something unkind about that person. It was sarcastic. It was cynical. It was a put-down. My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was right in front of mine. With deep, slow words he said, “Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.”      He could have put a knife into my ribs, and the pain would not have been any less. He did what a prophet does. But you know something? There have been ten thousand times in the last twenty years that I have been saved from making a jerk of myself. When I’ve been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend’s voice say, “Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not speak in such a way about a friend.” Prophets do that. They remind us of the truth and where we are falling short. If you avoid prophets—and a lot of people do—you do so at the peril of your spiritual journey. You and I need prophets.[1]

The texts in Amos 7:7-17, Luke 10:25-37 and Colossians 1:1-14 address justice and the unconditional love of God. Here’s the bottom line: We are God’s voice and presence of and for love and justice in need filled homes, neighborhoods, places of work and leisure. The story of the plumb line in Amos brings us face to face with the individual and corporate need for justice. Our lives are consistently measured by God’s standards, not to punish, but to free us to a greater experience of salvation. Luke 10 reminds us that salvation is experienced when we join arms with the enemy and the alien. Love should not be limited by its recipient; its extent and quality are in the control of its giver. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae explains what is commonplace. God has already prepared our way. Jesus has thought it through, walked it through and lived it through.[2]

Praying. Loving. Participating. Our lives are consistently measured by God’s standards, not to punish, but to free us to a greater experience of salvation. Salvation is experienced when we join arms with the enemy and the alien. God has already prepared our way. Jesus has thought it through, walked it through and lived it through.  Christopher J.H. Wright in Christian Mission in the Modern World writes, “The gospel tells the story of Jesus in the light of the whole Bible. The gospel creates a new reconciled humanity in the one family of God. The gospel proclaims the saving message of the cross. The gospel produces ethical transformation. The gospel has cosmic power through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit.”[3] You and I need prophets in our lives.

God’s unconditional love beckons you to allow God to serve you and you in turn to serve others. When we take human need seriously, God’s kingdom comes near. Live the love and justice of the whole gospel, as a member of the whole church, for the whole world.

[1]Found on http://www.preachingtoday.com. The story belongs to Gordon MacDonald, in the sermon “Feeling As God Feels,” Preaching Today audio (#196).

[2]My thinking in this paragraph has been shaped by, Matthew Richard Schlim and Carol J. Dempsey, OP, Stanley P. Saunders, Hierald E. Osorto, Linda McKinnish Bridges and John M. Buchanan in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 144-145, 146-147, 138-140, 140-142, 151-155 and 156-160.

[3]John Stott and Christopher J. H. Wright, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 79-90.

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