Updated: May 17, 2021
The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered about the year I started reading through the Bible for the first time. As a twelve-year-old, I was drawn to the more dramatic and action packed passages of the Bible, similar to the climactic scene of Raiders when the bad guy’s face melts off.
As much as these Biblical stories thrilled me, it was later in life that I bridged them to actually living the Christian life.
So how do we live the Christian life? I've heard sermons and read books on spiritual habits like scripture reading, prayer, living in community, etc. We all have. But how do we live the Christian life day-to-day? In the moment?
The Westminster Catechism states the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glorifying God means to show or reveal Him.
And all God’s people said, “Yes!”
But… how do we do that? How do we glorify God? Worship singing? Going to church? Meditation? Reading God’s word? Prayer?
The Bible teaches us that the answer is love.
There are various reactions to this statement. Some Christians mistakenly believe that love is the soft side of Christianity. Many admit that love is a part of it. A few Christians literally roll their eyes. They believe the word “love” to be overused and misused.
Love in the Bible (greek word agape) is defined as an unselfish, sacrificial love of devotion and commitment, seeking the supreme best for another. The Father set the standard for this love in sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
The Biblical authors refer to love as paramount to the Christian life:
Jesus says it’s the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40).
Paul writes it’s the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).
James calls it the royal law (James 2:8).
Peter names it as the culminating virtue for a believer to grow in (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Paul names it first as proof of a believer (Galatians 5:22-23).
I didn’t even mention John. John so associates love with God, he uses the phrase, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). It is arguably God’s most descriptive attribute. Everything God does is from love. God “cannot” do anything that is not done in love.
But if we focus too much on love, aren’t we in danger of ignoring God’s holiness? His righteousness? His justice?
Perhaps you’ve been taught that God’s holiness is the absence of sin, but it’s much more than that. Holiness is the rich idea of God’s perfect goodness and purity. It is absolute, intense rightness. In the Bible, that goodness and holiness is demonstrated in His intense love for His creation -- specifically, humanity. There is nothing holier or purer than for someone absolutely blameless to sacrificially rescue someone absolutely guilty. Perhaps the holiest verse of the Bible is John 3:16.
If you think about someone living a holy life, what does it look like? Compare that to someone living a loving life. Shouldn’t these lives look the same?
This is a big shift. Another way to look at it is in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He was and is absolutely holy, perfect in deed, thought, and intention. His holiness manifested itself in love, touching sickness, not shrinking from it. Moving toward sinners, not hiding from them. He allowed his holiness/love to touch the world. When Jesus touched and healed the lepers, he technically broke the purity law, because it was assumed the impurity would spread to himself. For Jesus, the opposite was true. Jesus’s purity (holiness) spread to them.
Love and holiness are not in tension with one another, as so many believe. It is impossible to separate God’s holiness and love. They are indivisible in the persons of God as they are in the followers of Jesus.
In fact, John alludes to Exodus 33 where Moses longs to see the glory of God. God tells Moses that he would not survive looking into the face of God because of his holiness, but Moses’s deepest desire is to experience the LORD.
John writes: No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12
John tells us here that the principal way we experience God and so live the Christian life is to love one another.
Perhaps the holiest thing God did was the most loving thing -- giving his one and only Son to be a sacrifice for us. Perhaps the holiest thing we can do is to simply love one another as God loves us. Paul reminds us that whatever gifts, disciplines, or habits we have of pursuing and serving God, if we don’t have love, we have nothing.
Without love, we ARE nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
What is our purpose? How do we glorify God? We show and exalt God by the mundane, small movements of love to the people he puts in our lives.
God gives us multiple opportunities per day to love, when he puts people in our path that are either difficult to love, or people that give us no personal gain by loving.
Looking at Jesus’s example of emptying himself and becoming nothing -- a mere servant -- to die for our sins (Philippians 2:6-8), how fitting that glorifying the Creator of the universe is accomplished by reaching out to the powerless, the disdained, the ignored, and just the everyday people in our paths.
When we commit acts of love, we enter into and experience the divine.
So on any given day, we can live the Christian life. We can live in love, and so live in holiness.
God is about to intervene in your life right now. He’s about to let you see his glory, as you love someone in your path of life. Do you see it? Do you see the opportunity to experience the God of the universe that is love? This makes life an exciting, beautiful adventure -- even better than an Indiana Jones movie.