“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Paradox of Love

6. The Paradox of Love

I have called this last paradox “the paradox of love” because I think that love is in fact what it describes. Jesus, having washed his disciples’ feet and thus shown “the full extent of his love” (John 13:1), says, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Their Lord and Teacher, their Savior and God, has emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of his divine fullness and become flesh (John 1:14); he has humbled himself to servanthood, even death on a cross (see “The Paradox of Christ: God and Man (Philippians 2)”). He has made himself the last of all. All this he has done out of love for his disciples, and for all men, even though we scorned him.

Now he says “you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” And in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” As he has loved, we are to love. As he has emptied himself for others, we are to empty ourselves for others. As he said “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34), we are to “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). As he became poor for us (2 Corinthians 8:9), we are to “sell what you possess and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21). As he submitted, as he laid down his life, so we are to lay down our lives. To become nothing, to give ourselves. This is love: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), to pour oneself out for others, as Christ did.* The washing of feet, described as an act of love, is clearly also an act of humility – one cannot love fully without humility. We are to value the good of others, even at great cost to ourselves – to exchange the natural inclination to value ourselves first for a humbling, emptying, others-centered love (see “The Love of God”)…

*This is how we are to be known as Christians to the world, how we are to shine the light of Christ as a city on a hill, as the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to demonstrate to the world in our own actions the sacrificial love of Christ, and thus not only tell but show people the Gospel. Many in the Church are doing this, but many more are not. Pray that we will give the world an accurate impression of what Christ did for us in what we do for others.

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