GRACE PAVED WITH LOVE
Jesus did what he had to do. He brought grace and truth and paved it with love (John 1:17), and both are gifts of God that man can claim. Grace is the truth that God has given man a second chance. Far more than that, grace is the proof that God loves the world so much that He sent of Himself His only begotten Son to show man what love is. Love is the arm of God’s grace and truth reaching out to man. That is why Jesus represented God as a Father that anxiously embraced his lost son. But, the straying Prodigal had to repent and return home to the Father (Luke 15:21-24).
As long a man has breath in him he can repent and be forgiven (Luke 23: 40-43). But, there are conditions, not in fine print, but in the same size as the Promises. Here are several promises Jesus made. Notice what man must do to claim them. To start with, man must repent and believe that Christ can deliver the Promises. Repenting has something to do with turning a sinful life around. Even people that are law abiding may go in the wrong direction like Nicodemus (John 3:3). The woman caught in adultery was told, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). The man who desired another man’s wife was told, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And the one who repented and loved much received much forgiveness (Luke 7:47). The Ethics of the kingdom were to be used for the sole purpose of becoming worthy recipients of the God’s Promises (Matthew 5-7).
The greatest news is that “God so loved the world,” not just the Jewish people, “that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The word “believes” is a present participle in the Greek that equals the Aramaic. It requires a response or a participation in what is being offered. Love cannot be realized until one reciprocates. Especially the person to whom love is being offered must claim it in order to benefit from it. The Greatest Commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The Second was equal to the First, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40). In case one does not know whom to love, then The Parable about the Good Samaritan leaves no doubt (Luke 10:25-37). It is not a person we like, but one that needs our help. True love does not pick its friends; it is a friend. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved said it best. “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him. Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command’…. ‘Whoever loves God must also love his brother'” (I John 4:13-21). “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him. ‘Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did'” (I John 2:3-6).
How did Jesus show His Love and how did Jesus walk and what did Jesus teach? Did Jesus leave women pregnant and children in the care of others? Did Jesus break up the family by perverting love? Did Jesus cheat at work and swindle others out of their rights and means? Did Jesus get into fights and act irresponsibly? Jesus rather died than hurt anyone. Jesus turned the other cheek and walked the second mile. Jesus corrected his disciples that wanted fire fall from heaven. Jesus forgave them that tortured and crucified Him. Even while Jesus suffered in agony, Jesus had time for a remorse sinner next to Him on the cross. And Jesus did not leave his mother without some one to care for her. Jesus was the embodiment of love. True love does not harm because it is redemptive. It corrects, repairs and heals what is broken. Jesus’ love healed the relationship between God and man and so can our love. Love heals by forgiving and by not judging (Luke 6:37). It is not ashamed of identifying with Jesus as Lord (Matthew 10:32). And it is not afraid to assist those that society may frown on (Matthew 25:37-40).
Love is not an option but a commandment of Christ, the Lord. “My commandment is this, Love each other as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:12-14). Love was a new addition to the Law of Moses. “A new commandment I give you, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Love is rendering service with benefits or promises. The first benefit is, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” And, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘They all will be taught by God'” (John 6:38-39; 44-45). The second one is, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). Number three is, “Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). The fourth one is, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -– the Spirit of truth” (John 14:15-17). The fifth one is, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). And the sixth is crucial for the believer, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). There are other benefits but these should suffice to show that salvation is not effortless. It is a narrow road that the saved must pave with love.
Love is not lip service but a call to risk one’s life for Christ and his cause. Simon Peter whom Jesus entrusted with his disciple knew first hand how difficult and hard it was to love Jesus, his disciples and his mission. He rendered lip service when he proclaimed publicly that he was ready to die for his Lord (Matthew 26:33-35). When it counted to stand by his Master, he denied him three times. After the rooster crowed for the third time, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:54-62). At that point, Peter had learned that he was not at all up to love the way Jesus loved. At best he could only be a true friend. Hence when Jesus asked him three times whether he loved his Master, Peter answered all three times with the word “friend.” The third time, Jesus also used the word “friend,” and installed Peter as his successor. Down the road of serving in Christ, the Apostle too stepped up in love and laid down his life for his Lord (John 21:15-19).
This is also the only road of grace where our Lord takes us back in case we fail or fall. He is always willing to forgive, if we are gracious to ourselves and to others. Grace is more than a gift; but it is also the road we travel on or the life we live. Grace is the narrow road that makes it possible to get back where we came from. Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior, is the “Way of Grace” (John 1:17). In Him God has extended his grace so that we get a second chance to finish for what we were created to do in the first place (Ephesians 2:4-10). Our life did not begin when we came into this world. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he elected (predestined) us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will –- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6). Jesus’ invitation to those that did his will shall be, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Peter, who was tricked before, counseled thus, “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (II Peter 3:17-18).