To say that living in Calvary-quality love is the most important thing in our life is to grossly understate its importance. This stands in distinction from how we typically define the Kingdom of God. But it stands in line with the fact that Jesus is the Kingdom of God.
Paul says the “the only thing that counts is faith working in love” (Gal 5:14). Both he and Peter stress the absolute centrality of love when they write, “Above all,” cloth yourselves with love” (Col 3:14; 1 Pet 4:8, emphasis added). Above all! We are to wear Calvary-quality love each waking moment like the clothes on our back. And our concern to be continually clothed like this must be placed above everything else—the rightness of our doctrine, our ethical stances, our political opinions, our nationalistic allegiances—above all.
Calvary-quality love is to characterize everything we do. “Let all that you do be done in love,” Paul says” (I Cor 16:14, emphasis added). Never are we to do anything, to anyone, at any time, if we cannot do it in Christ-like love. (Remember that the next time you are in an argument.)
Even more radically, in I Corinthians 13 Paul goes so far as to say that if we do anything without love it’s altogether worthless. For all our professions about believing the inerrancy of the Bible, I seriously wonder how many of us really believe this?
- You can have the most beautiful gift of tongues in heaven and earth, but it’s simply irritating noise without love.
- You can have “all knowledge” and understand “all mysteries,” but they are altogether devoid of kingdom value unless motivated by Calvary-love and used for the purpose of expanding Calvary quality love.
- Your faith can move mountains, Paul says, and you can engage in every good work imaginable, but it’s all absolutely worthless unless Calvary-quality love is woven into your every breath, your brain waves, your heart beat—unless you’re living in love.
The only criteria that matters in assessing whether our abilities, accomplishments and opinions have any kingdom value is whether or not they flow out of and reflect Calvary-quality love. The fastest growing churches, the most impressive preachers, the most inspiring worship services, the most outstanding scholarship, the most spectacular revivals all are nothing but irritating, obnoxious religious noise in the ears of God except insofar as they look like Jesus, dying on a cross for those who crucified him.
Again, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal 5:14, emphasis added)—and love is defined as Jesus dying on the cross (I Jn 3:16).
As Jesus taught us, only to the extent that we replicate the sacrificial love of Calvary for others—the homeless, the sick, the rejected, the oppressed, the marginalized, the imprisoned, our neighbors, our co-workers and even terrorists—only to this extent are we participants in the kingdom of God. Only to this extent are we the body of Christ, doing what the Incarnate Christ did. Only to this extent are we godly. Only to this extent are we Christian. If this sort of Jesus-looking sacrificial love isn’t being done, then, as Paul taught us, nothing of any value is being done, however good and religious and noble it might otherwise appear.
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