Someone might object that I am ignoring the context of 1 John 4. It says that if we say we love God and yet don’t love our brethren, we are all a sham (1 John 4:20). You have to love your neighbor; not doing so proves you don’t love God! Here’s what I’m saying—yes, that is all true! We love so poorly. We say we love God, we try to love others, and yet we love no one but ourselves. Is our solution to start pretending to love people better so that it looks like we love God? How is that working for all of us? Do we enjoy living all from pretense? Implementing this kind of solution marginalizes verses such as 1 John 4:10, 1 John 4:16, and 1 John 4:19 about God loving us—a love that is found not in us but in Him—by emphasizing our responsibility to love. Any fool can press the case for our responsibility to love our neighbor and then not do it! This is our fiery sermon, our powerful Christian life? Clearly if we do not grapple with 1 John 4:10, if our way of loving makes us want to ignore 1 John 4:16, we are not living under grace. It is His love for us that is the door to a universe in which love for others is possible. We cannot press old covenant (law and retribution) onto these passages and expect them to make any sense.
Romance of Grace, page 42
Some of the dialog from podcast 4 reminded me of this passage from the Romance of Grace. Which is better: to be seen as having a strong stand on holiness which people either despair of and lose heart and leave the church only to sink back into sin, or else to hang on in a completely false veneer of pretend success? Is the goal of our teaching to cause people to feel so overwhelmingly guilty that they despair of the faith? Or is it better to offer a genuine forgiveness and strong grace, embracing the message of the cross of Christ, and give people a door into a universe where holiness is not demanded, it is cherished? In the world of grace, people have the freedom to fail, but they also have the freedom to confess and move on to being loved and to repent from the heart without regret. Which seems more likely to succeed?
Lordship salvation only presses sinners further into the idolatry of their sins. It makes their sin lord over them. The focus becomes their ruling enemy: their bad behavior. It masters them. Radical grace and genuine mercy and the unconditional one-way love of God has the power to remove this tyrant from its lordship over us. Grace removes our sin from being Lord over us. Grace gives us the opportunity and power to repent. Unearned and undeserved grace given as a pure gift while we are yet sinners is the only soil and seed which grows the Holy Spirit’s fruit.
Here is my fiery sermon:
This is the thing to get straight; here is what this is saying. He loves you. Now. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. You are the one He loves. Do you think He doesn’t know what a sinner you really are? While you were yet a sinner, He died for you. Do you get it? Forget about repentance and performance and service and evangelism and the whole world of all of it. It will come later at the right place and time. He loves you. The kingdom of God is all about real, honest desire and passion, and it starts with Him. You are the pearl He seeks, the sheep He went to rescue, and the long-lost son. He actually loves you. This is the beginning. Once you stop all your fake posing and stop whitewashing your loveless dead tomb of a heart and let this simply soak in, you will see it. Only then will you see that this is actually all about love; it is not a demand or a moral requirement.
Then you will begin to see that an honest response of love will start to form in you. “He loves me,” you will say in your heart; “He knows everything about me, and still He loves.” That is when real affection, real joy, real simple-honest-delicious love begins to come to you. It is a response to His love—and that is what He longs for! The world opens up and joy enters, and simple things bring you pleasure as gifts from His hand. You are saved from your horrible condition!
Romance of Grace, pg 39-40