Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"THIS" 'N "THAT" 1 John 4:10

When reading its easy to skip over such innocuous words as "this" and "that." On their own they don't appear to be very important. In reality, there is a big difference between "this" and "that." "This" implies something close, specific, concrete. "That" refers to something over there, something more abstract.

E. Stanley Jones, long time missionary to India described how in other faiths, "that" points beyond themselves to an abstract God, to some great unseen. For example, in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism the pinnacle of "that" is reached when it describes God as "Neti, Neti," meaning, "not that, not that." God is so beyond everything and so abstract that words cannot describe or even point to It. The best thing they can say about God is "not that, not that." In contrast, Jones said, in Jesus the distant "that" becomes the nearby "this." "For Jesus is the personal approach from the Unseen in which the unfathomable "that" becomes the incarnate "this" (Christian Maturity, 121). In other words, In Jesus, the far off God comes near.

John makes this clear in 1 John. His most used word in the letter is "love," as it appears 43 times. "This" occurs 29 times. When "love" is used with "this," love is transformed from an abstract principle to a living reality. As in 4:10: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."

When Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me," its as if he were saying, "Father, how can I do this?" Nancy Reagan was interviewed during former President Ronald Reagan's heartbreaking decline with Alzheimer's disease. With each passing month, she took on more of his daily care. While she felt he still responded to her, there were many times he did not appear to know her. The interviewer commented on her obvious fatigue and asked one last question: "How do you keep on doing it?" Her haunting answer was: "Sometimes, you just love." I like to imagine this was God's gentle whisper to his Son that night: "You can do it my Son. You just love." (Elysse Grinnell, Just Because He Loved. Christian Standard, Jan 7, 2007).

The Lord's Supper testifies to the reality, the specific, the historical, and personal love that god has for us. As John says in 1 John 3:176, "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us ...."

No comments: