Sunday, 2 March 2014

Jesus only - in his love

Paul was very disappointed to discover that the Galatian churches had turned away from the gospel he had preached to them. Their turning away was caused by false teachers who argued that the new converts should also practise the ceremonial law. In effect, their message was 'Jesus plus something' whereas Paul's message was 'Jesus only'.

We too can be affected by 'Jesus plus .....'. It might be a new technique that promises a lot or a new practice that seems beneficial. Often such suggestions are subtle (like the Galatians, it can be given from a Bible verse), frequently they are selfish (it usually fits in with a person's competence or preference), and always they are sinful (because 'Jesus plus' only leaves us with the 'plus').

In Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds the Galatians of three ways in which they should think of 'Jesus only'. The first concerns his love for them, the second his sacrifice for them, and the third is their union with him by faith.

As far as the love of Jesus is concerned we could think of many aspects. Here are six ways in which he showed his love for his people. First, his love for them is eternal - it has always existed. Second, his love was receptive in that he received them as a love gift from his Father in the eternal counsels. Third, his love was personal - although they are a number that cannot be counted he loves each as if he or she were the only one to love. Fourth, he loved them longingly, anticipating the time when he and they could be together. Fifth, he loved them creatively in the sense that he participated in their formation as individuals and provided uniqueness for each of them. Sixth, he loved them intelligently, fully aware of their sins and flaws.

Much more could be said of his love. Those six details are good to meditate on. We will think about Paul's two other points in later readings.

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