By JOOHONG KIM·WEDNESDAY, 28 MARCH 2018
I guess, most of you are familiar with the award-winning British musical Oliver! We have seen the film or watched it on TV. Now we are going to listen to a song Where is love? that Oliver Twist, the leading character of the musical, sings after being thrown into the cellar of a funeral parlour.
Musical Oliver! “Where is love?’
Where is love?
Does it fall from skies above?
Is it underneath the willow tree
That I’ve been dreaming of?
Where is she?
Who I close my eyes to see?
Will I ever know the sweet “hello”
That’s meant for only me?
Who can say where she may hide?
Must I travel far and wide?
Till I am beside the someone who
I can mean … something to …
Where…? Where is love?
Every night I kneel and pray
Let tomorrow be the day
When I see the face of someone who
I can mean … something to …
Where? Where is love?
I have been talking about our spiritual journey using a model, which was developed by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich. Today I am going to talk about the last stage Life of Love.
Love is life. Love gives us energy. Love makes us alive. Love makes us excited each day. Love gives us hope for tomorrow. Unlike Oliver who was singing Where is love? we Christians are those who have found love. We believe in God who is love. We believe in Jesus Christ who revealed the love of God through His life of suffering, death and resurrection. And we believe that the Holy Spirit helps us feel the love of God that surrounds us, and the same Spirit inspires us to go out to the world and share His love.
Those who have experienced the love of God become full of energy, vitality, liveliness, excitement, joy, strength, and hope. No wonder, God is life and God is love.
The Life of Love
In the Book the Critical Journey the authors explain The Life of Love this way:
“At this stage we reflect God [who is love] to others in the world more clearly and consistently than we ever thought possible.”
“We let our lights shine in such a way that God is given credit and the thanks.” In other words, “all thanks to God who is love.”
“This factor allows us to do the most extraordinary things. We may figuratively wash other people’s feet or give our very lives in the service of God.” Not only Mother Teresa, who was canonized as a saint, but also many faithful Christians who did so behind the scenes.
At this stage we do not need self-protection, we do not need defence mechanisms to protect ourselves, because we are filled with the love of God. We may put it this way: The love of God overflows out of our inner being—heart, mind and soul—into our daily lives and into our relationships, which is called The Life of Love.
It also means, “We are at peace with ourselves, fully conscious of being the person God has created us to be. Obedience comes very naturally without deliberation because we are so immersed in God’s work wherever that may be such as in the field, the school, the home, the corporation, the prison or the neighbourhood.” As a result, “People can be lifted up in spirit just by being with us, whether in joys or hardships.”
Characteristics of The Life of Love
Here are characteristics of Stage 6 The Life of Love.
Christ-Like Living in Total Obedience to God: At this stage, Christ’s life represents not just an example but a model for our lives. We willingly are obedient to God’s call, even, if necessary, unto death. Here, we remember what Bonhoeffer said about calling. “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.”
We have wisdom that God gives to direct and sustain our lives. which means, we feel and know what is in the heart of God. We begin to understand deeply the paradoxes of Christ’s life. E.g. You find hope in despair. You feel sorrow in joy. You experience powerfulness in times of weakness. You see a glorious light in suffering. You express gratitude in times of pain. All these come up very naturally not in a sense of duty or obligation.
Our times alone with God come during the quiet times away as well as in the everyday, unceasing conversations. And we have little ambition for being well known, rich, successful,
noteworthy, goal-oriented, or “spiritual.” What matters is love. At this stage, “Is my life an expression of God’s love?” is the only question that we ask every day, every hour, and every minute.
We are Spirit-filled but in a quiet, unassuming way. The presence of the Spirit is so pervasive that we may not be conscious of the Spirit within me. Consequently, we are genuinely humble and able to talk of our lives and purposes in very simple terms.
Wisdom gained though Life’s Struggles: We still experience pain or shock, which tires or angers us, but we can also simultaneously experience God’s grace, humour, comfort in the midst of it all. Many times we feel personally small, insignificant, or unsuited to the task God has for us. But God promises to use our weakness to do God’s work.
We are confident that we are God’s—the children of God. That is enough. It does not matter what we do, where we live, how we look or what we eat. We totally believe that God cares for us as much as for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
Compassionate Living for Others: Jesus models this kind of life by reflecting compassion for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the possessed. He even extends the healing touch to untouchables like the lepers and the dead. At this stage, we can reach far beyond our own capacity and love our fellow human beings with deep compassion, because we know that all come from and are loved by God. Yet compassion does not mean to be lacking convictions or the absence of anger. It does mean that, in the midst of anger, we are still willing to love, help, and be there for others.”
Detachment from Things and Stress: At this stage, we become aware that “the more of God we have, the less of everything else we need.” We do not renounce material possessions. We simply learn to need them less; we become detached from things and people as props and bolstering devices.
We may not even be in good health, nor do we need to be beautiful by the world’s standards, but we are wonderful by God’s standards. We gracefully accept life and have an inner satisfaction no matter how little we have outwardly. We seem to disregard our own needs and not care for ourselves. This is because those needs are secondary to our need to totally obey to God and listen for God’s direction.
Life Underneath or On Top: We choose to do anything God asks, whether the most menial or the most prestigious things. We can be close to God either way. It gives us great joy and raises our spirits to a new level. We soar with eagles when we are about the most mundane tasks.
We can say or do “foolish” things because we are not afraid of death. We can deliberately give up our lives, materially, physically, mentally and emotionally for the service of others without feeling afraid of the deep loss. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save their live will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:25) And He himself set the example of such a life of love. So we can read it, “Whoever wants to save their live will lose it, but whoever loses their life for the sake of the love of God will find it.”
Prophecy and Fulfilment
Psalm 118:19-29 describes the day when the Messiah comes to save His people.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
This is exactly what happened when Jesus came into Jerusalem. When Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, people spread their cloaks on the road and others spread leafy branches, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10) Hosanna means “Save, us” or “Saviour.”
So we say “The Old Testament informs the NT, and the NT interprets the OT.” This theological principle provides us with a very important key to how we read, interpret and understand the Bible. Based on this principle, we can say, “the Old Testament prophecies the coming of Jesus as the Messiah whereas the New Testament witnesses to His life and ministry.”
The Festal Procession
Let’s suppose that we were among the crowd who had long been waiting for the Messiah, and waiting for the day when they would be liberated from the Roman military power, from the economic materialistic injustices, and from fear of plague, epidemic, unknown diseases. Then, it is not difficult to imagine that we must have been raising our hands and waving the branches, saying “Hosanna!” and that we must have been raising our voices and shouting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Because it was the day of celebration when we should sing in joy. That was the day, which the Lord had made, when we should rejoice and be glad in it.
Then we come across a question: What was in the mind of Jesus who was riding on a donkey and hearing our cheerful praises? He might have felt the perceptive distance between the nation that the people were dreaming of and the Kingdom that Jesus was establishing. The people of Israel sought their political independence and economic security whereas Jesus was laying the foundation of the Kingdom that did not belong to the world, but to God: The Kingdom that lasts forever is the Kingdom of God. It is the Kingdom of love, in other words, because God is love.
We are Christians following Jesus who had laid the foundation of the Kingdom and has gathered His own people from all the corners of the world. Now it is time for us to look into our hearts and examine what kind of world I am hoping for, what kind of community I am dreaming of, and what kind of life I am praying for. Is it a world that is full of love? Is it a community that is full of compassion? Is it a life that enjoys loving relationships? Is my heart synchronized with that of Jesus?
As Christians we have been on a journey of faith, which is actually the festal procession that is full of joy, excitement, and vitality. Why is it the festal procession, despite that we go through times of pain, suffering and confusion during the journey? Because we keep: (1) Moving forward; (2) Growing and maturing. (3) Following Jesus who is King of kings.
Jesus has become the cornerstone of the Kingdom of Love and God called us into the Kingdom where we may all enjoy The Life of Love, not only in our life beyond death, but also here and now.
I hope and pray that we may all continue on our journey of faith and ultimately be able to enjoy The Life of Love and share it with one another and with our neighbours so that there is no one among us and around us sitting alone on a coffin and singing Where Is Love? sorrowfully.
Readings: Psalm 118:19-29; Mark 11:1-11. “The Festal Procession”. Rev Joohong Kim. Crossway Community Church. Psalm Sunday 25 Mar 2018.