by Starr Daily
from the book Together
In the badlands of the southwest a man lay behind a large boulder. He was grim-faced, tense, alert. Across his forearm rested the barrel of a 30-30 rifle, its muzzle pointing toward a bend in the trail. He was waiting there to kill an enemy.
There had been a long series of feudlike incidents in the lives of the two men, a lot of bad blood, threats, and heated words. These had brought about several dangerous situations, which finally came to a head, like a ripe boil, in the present crisis - a deliberate and premeditated design for murder.
Over a portion of this territory some unknown sign painter had left his peculiar mark upon an unknown rock - three words, large-drawn in black paint: GOD IS LOVE.
The words had been daubed upon the boulder behind which the prospective killer hid, and on a level with his eyes. For an hour in the hush and oppressive silence the man waited out his suspense.
From time to time his attention wavered from the trail and he focused his eyes upon the massive black letters. After a while, almost as if compelled, he began to think about the words. When he did so his mind was lured invariably into the past, and he found himself thinking of his boyhood experiences. The love of his mother recurred to him, and also the less demonstrative love of his father. Often he felt a tug in his throat, an insufferable choking sensation. And once, in the conflict of his emotions, he gasped out a prayer, the first that had crossed his lips in years, "Oh God, wipe this hate out of my soul."
Instantly he heard hoof beats in the distance. His attention was riveted once more on the bend in the trail. He lifted his rifle and caught up the moving figure in its sight. His finger was on the trigger. "But," as he related the story, "I was unable to press it. Something stronger than the hate in my heart had taken hold of me. My target passed on unaware and unharmed."
Something stronger than hate entered his heart. That something was God's redeeming love. The old man died in him; the new man was born.
Whenever and however the love of God gets into the hear it takes command. For the moment, at least, it will overcome any evil that may be festering there. Love really casts out fear and overcomes evil with good. For "he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." (John 4:16)
We flutter mothlike around the edges of the redemptive flame a long while. Finally, our wings singed, we plunge in, and we die. It is good to die after this fashion, for except the seed die it shall produce no harvest. people everywhere are afraid to love because they are afraid to die to the old life. The human appetites and seductions are well-nigh hypnotic. It is difficult for a person to lay down his life with only a vague hope of gaining a better one. There is glamour wrapped up on the folds of every mortal sense. Usually the willingness to die comes only when the point of spiritual crisis is reached - when the last illusion is gone.
God is a flame. And God is love. the purging is by conduct; the redemptive baptism is by fire. The great love always consumes everything but its own. In the crucible of redemptive love, the shells of the ego are melted down one by one. What remains is soul, pure, radiant, undefiled. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (I John 3:11). It is in the retort of redemptive love that the dross is burned away from around the soul parts. "And above all things have fervent love among themselves; for love shall cover the multitude of sins." (1 Pet. 4:8). Love burns up sin as a furnace burns up coal. The sin vanishes; the flame of love burns on.
"Above all things." Think of anything - knowledge, eloquence, wisdom, faith, foresight, revelation, religion - just anything. Above everything else imaginable. In the absence of redemptive love it is modified by vanity.
A woman said: "I'll be frank with you, I have an enemy, my own sister, and I'm afraid to love her. Every time I tri it she takes advantage of me, and imposes upon me." That is true to life. If you love you are bound to get hurt. it is good to be hurt on the side of redemptive love. Love is always a delight to the soul, and what delights the soul is painful to the ego. By wounding a man's vanity love releases his soul. Every stripe that redemptive love inflicts on the ego consumes it by that much. by the stripes of redemptive love the man is healed. When finally love has done its perfect work egotism retires and the soul-consciousness comes forth. As the soul increases, the ego must decrease. There comes a time when the ego's job is finished. Then the energy of personal ambition is transmuted into the energy of personal redemption. That is the normal, natural way life should be allowed to flow - an undisputed passage from ambition into aspiration, from fear into faith, from rebellion into reverence, from sin into salvation, from loss into love. "Put on love, whish is the bond of perfectness." (Col 3:14). "Walk in love." (Eph. 5:2) "let all that ye do be done in love." (1 Cor 6:14) "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (1 John 3:14)
I wanted to say to the woman: Redemptive love can never be imposed upon, for it seeks not its own. Love wants for nothing save the opportunity to love the brethren. That is reward enough. Love has but a single purpose - just to bestow itself. Hence it can never be finally disappointed by adverse results. it would like to change people's lives, of course. But it does not meddle, and wheedle, and force. it prefers to serve others, and point the way by example, as much as by precept.
Love wants to help people, and if possible make them happy. it is the nature of love to be happy in the happiness of others, and sad in the sadness of others. But if it cannot make people happy, it does not fret and worry about it. It has its reward for the reward of love is always included in the bestowal of love. While, like the ego, it will not travel three thousand miles to make on proselyte, it will go then thousand miles to serve and help one wretched, suffering person. it will make any sacrifice to serve and aid those less fortunate, and if it fails to help them it has not labored in vain. As God's word does not return to him void, neither does his love. If the love we give is not received by one it will be by another and still another. Love does not contribute to the void.
Love embraces all, friend and foe alike, both the ones it can help and the ones it cannot help. The great Lover from Nazareth could help some, and many he could not help. But he loved all equally as much. He had but one aim: to love God and his people. If people were unable to receive his love and its blessings he did not worry about it. He knew that love was long-suffering. It was willing to give and wait. For the time being there were other folds and other shepherds beside the love fold and the love shepherd. In the long range all would be able to receive God's love, and there would be one fold and one shepherd. There was no vexed time in love. By and by the last weary, deluded traveler would stumble into the eternal land of love and put his burden down.
People could neither hurt nor impose upon the love of Jesus. The more they tried to do so, the more love God gave him. Heaven knows how poor old Jerusalem, in its torment, confusion, and wretchedness, tried to injure him. The very ones he sought most to love and serve rejected and repulsed him most. But God gave him so much love for them that he wept over the city, not because of their hurt to him, but because his love was helpless before their blindness and ignorance. On the Cross he literally became the love of God, forgiving all who nailed his quivering body to the tree. Love turned his Cross into a crown, even as he had made common water into uncommon wine, common disease into uncommon health, common death into uncommon life.
You cannot defeat that kind of love, any more than you can defeat the man who loves you. How can anyone possibly overcome victory with defeat? Love is unconquerable, invincible. Because it has everything it can lose nothing. Like water it resists not; and yet like water it is irresistible. Therefore, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (matt 5:44). Surely love knows its own. It knows that nothing can keep its own from it. By self-giving it becomes self-receiving. Nothing can break or disturb this rhythm of love but lovelessness. "This is the way, walk ye in it." Love! Much love! More love!
"I guess I've had about everything," said a man. "Never have I been sick a day in my life. I've had money, position, a certain amount of influence and fame. I've had the love of a wife which has never faltered. I've had three children who have never disappointed my hopes in them. But I'm restless, with a deep dissatisfaction in my soul."
This is a curious paradox: satisfaction is an enemy of redemption, personally and collectively. A satisfied dissatisfaction transforms lives when it is inspired by redemptive love. There is such a thing as the tranquility of a restless soul. This man had it, and his life worked a redeeming influence in his family and his world.
The love of God labors to keep us out of the lifeless pews of satisfaction, and nudges us ever toward the living pews of spiritual discontent. The partial union we have with God makes us restless and keeps us panting after the elusive perfection. "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." (1 John 4:12) The form, the doctrine, and the creed are pathways to spiritual tragedy - or to glory. If we settle comfortably down in them we arrest the soul by throwing over it a stifling blanket of inertia, a covering of pious content. But if they astir us out of concept and into conduct they release the soul; they give it golden wings, and it flies out of the narrow valley into high open country where the air is clean and odic. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35). By your habitual conduct shall all men know. If by its fruit we can know the tree, then by the fruits of his conduct can we know the man.
What, then, are the marks of a restless soul and redeemed personality? They are the rich, ripe fruits of character - humility, purity, faith, holy affection. These find a passionate expression in four world-wide social causes - justice, liberty, brotherhood, peace.
They are all generated from the persistent application of redemptive love. Not out of static concept, but out of active conduct! "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well." Love in action - this is the way that leads to redemption. Not only belief; but belief plus behavior. Not only concept, but concept plus conduct. Not only creed, but creed plus deed.
We see by this scripture that there are those with whom we have, as it were, a spiritual affinity; and that we can help them in a redemptive way. There can be no doubt but that Peter and John had passed this crippled man at the gate many times without responding to his need. They had a concept of love in those days; but not those fruits of love which express themselves in effectual conduct. We see, too, that the man's healing was more than physical - he was also redeemed in his personality and character. Besides leaping and walking, he praised God, which is an overflow of a redeemed soul.
It is very difficult to help a person redemptively if we cannot love him spiritually. And we must remember that in this instance Peter and John were fresh from an invasion of spiritual love, a total, life-changing Pentecostal experience. Because they were filled with redemptive love they could transmit it to the cripple for whom they now had an affinity. The result was an instantaneous miracle. The cripple owed his total deliverance to Peter's and John's deliverance.
As Henry Drummond has so forcefully pointed out, this redemptive love power is the greatest thing in the world. It is the supreme obtainment, the one needful thing above all other things. We cannot evoke it alone. Nor can we give what we do not possess. Peter could not give the man neither silver nor gold, for these he did not possess. He did possess something infinitely better - redemptive love. This love had had received as a recent gift at Pentecost. Having it, he could give it to this particular man. Two things were required on the cripple's part: willingness to receive the disciples' love, and faith that he could be healed. He must elevate his gaze from the earthbound look of despair and doubt to the uplook of hope and confidence. "Look on us." You must look up.
peter and John were aglow with the love of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Hence, they could speak in his name, by his authority, in his stead. But to this commanding, redemptive power Peter added the personal touch, the action of conduct. He reached for the man's right hand and helped him up. Redemptive love is eager to come close to the one would aid. It is willing to touch the object of its desire. Love that is less than redemptive is prone to render its help from a safe distance, lest a further demand be made up on it.
It is a truism that the only kind of love we can give is the kind we have received. If the love we give is not redemptive it is as likely to contribute a curse as a blessing. The inventory loves, and so does the scientist. But intellectual love is not enough. It cannot time and control its offerings. Thus, what it bestows as a blessing to mankind can be turned into a monster or mass destruction.
We can open ourselves to redemptive love and invite it. It comes to us, not by merit, but by God's mercy and grace. If it is given to us we can speak and act in the name of Jesus; we can operate under this support and authority; we can be not only his extension but his expansion. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (Acts 3:6)
What an empty thing it would be utter those words unless our hearts were filled to overflowing with God's love. But with that love in our hearts the words could be spoken not in vain, but with redemptive power. And to the words we should feel the urge to add the personal touch. "And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up."
A wise old life-timer once said to me as I assumed my duties as a night nurse in a prison hospital, "Put love in your eye and make them look at it." I could not put love in my eye but I could ask God to put it there, and as a good intention I could act as thought it were there. The old man was correct, however, in his realization of the need for love in the eye, for here, indeed, was the secret of helping others redemptively.
Said Peter, fastening his own love-filled eyes upon the cripple, "Look on us." He might have explained: "You must look up, my friend, my brother. The downgaze has kept you earth-bound from birth. Now you must look up. Look on us. We have something in our eyes you know not of. We have no silver and gold; but we have something much better and more valuable. We have just been redeemed by love. We are still in the radiant glow of that love. Look into our eyes and this love will cast out your fears and doubts; it will overcome your physical handicap; it will set your soul free."
This freeing love is the redemptive power. The practice of holy affections is the pathway to that power. Love is both the end and the means to the end. It is in application God's redemptive process in the world.
Love is the pathway to total obedience: "owe no man anything ... for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law .... Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom 13:8, 10)
Love is the pathway to illumination: "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." 91 John 2:9)
Love is the pathway to new birth: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." (1 John 4:7)
He drew a
circle that shut me out -
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