Category Archives: Love
Francis A. Schaeffer was born 100 years ago today (Jan. 30, 1912). He died in 1984. In 1974 he wrote this in his book No Little People:
As I see it, the Christian life must be comprised of three concentric circles, each of which must be kept in its proper place.
In the outer circle must be the correct theological position, true biblical orthodoxy and the purity of the visible church. This is first, but if that is all there is, it is just one more seedbed for spiritual pride.
In the second circle must be good intellectual training and comprehension of our own generation. But having only this leads to intellectualism and again provides a seedbed for pride.
In the inner circle must be the humble heart — the love of God, the devotional attitude toward God. There must be the daily practice of the reality of the God whom we know is there.
These three circles must be properly established, emphasized and related to each other. At the center must be kept a living relationship to the God we know exists. When each of these three circles is established in its proper place, there will be tongues of fire and the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, at the end of my life, when I look back over my work since I have been a Christian, I will see that I have not wasted my life.
Helmut Thielicke was a German preacher during WW2, given the heavy task of shepherding people through their darkest and most traumatic years. Ten of his wartime sermons were collected, translated into English by Geoffrey Bromiley, and published under the title The Silence of God (Eerdmans: 1962). In one sermon Thielicke addresses the anxiety of the day with these words of reassuring comfort.
The surprising thing in the biblical message is that it finds in love the opposite of fear and anxiety. There is no terror – one might equally well say anxiety – in love, we are told in 1 John [4:15–19]. The surprising thing is that anxiety is not opposed by fortitude, courage or heroism, as one might expect. These are simply anxiety suppressed, not conquered. The positive force which defeats anxiety is love. What this means can be understood only when we have tackled anxiety in what we have tried to see as its final root. That is to say, anxiety is a broken bond and love is the bond restored. Once we know in Christ that the world has a fatherly basis and that we are loved, we lose our anxiety. This is not because the powers referred to have gone. On Dürer’s picture of the Horseman, Death and the Devil they lurk on the way. But they have lost their strength. To use a simple comparison – and simplicity is needed in ultimate questions – I need have no fear even in the darkest forest when I hold my father’s hand and I am sure of it. (pp 8–9)
A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul. … But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he wills unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven.
At the end of one of his lectures, Gordon Fee recalled a time when he was writing his commentary on 1 Corinthians, especially the morning he arrived at the famous words in 13:4, “Love is patient and kind.”
I remember the morning when I came to this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s actually a verb: “Love does patience.” Or better yet, the KJV: “love suffers long.” Patience is what you show when your computer doesn’t work. Long-suffering is what you show when people don’t work, and you’ve been around them a long, long time. That’s what it means to suffer long. And I looked at those words and then realized that Paul was here describing God’s character. Those are exactly the words he uses of God back in Romans 2. Then it dawned on me, the first (long-suffering) is the passive side of His love; the other (kindness) is the active side of His love. And then I started to cry for a long time. It took me a long time to return to my computer. What if God was not like this toward us?
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Pevear/Volokhonsky edition (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990) p. 58:
…active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.
This excerpt from John Calvin reminds me a bit of the quote I posted earlier in the week from James Davidson Hunter. In The Institutes, Calvin writes (2.8.55; McNeil/Battles, 1:419):
“…we ought to embrace the whole human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is no distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves. When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors. Therefore, if we rightly direct our love, we must first turn our eyes not to man, the sight of whom would more often engender hate than love, but to God, who bids us extend to all men the love we bear to him, that this may be an unchanging principle: Whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.”