Revolutionary Love

13 02 2009

I’m sitting in the R&R coffee shop in Black Forest thinking about the message of the apostle of love.  If you’ve been listening to my messages the past three months at MSC, you know that I’m caught up with this apostle of love and his epistle of love.  I call it a “revolutionary love” because it is, well, just so revolutionary.   It is so foreign to our thinking.  It is so foreign in most of our churches.  It is so foreign in most of our relationships. 

It is the passion of one of the twelve, a man who called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  The apostle John was enraptured and overtaken with the love of Jesus.  He just can’t contain himself as he scribes his letter to the church.  Fifty six times John speaks of love in this small letter!  No other book of the Bible so speaks as often and so repeatedly on the theme of love. 

John wrote his first letter for two reasons.  First, he was aghast at the success of the Gnostic teachers in pulling the believers in Ephesus away from their new found faith.  John is writing his letter to refute the false theology and practice of these first century cultists.  But, secondly, John is emphasizing that real belief in the real God is best expressed and proven, not by persuasive arguments but through a lifestyle of love.  John wants us to understand with our heart that “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” (1 John 4:16b)

From a “Son of Thunder” to an “Apostle of Love”

John didn’t start out as the apostle of love. Just like Simon, whom Jesus renamed Peter, the Rock, Jesus saw the raw unsanctified man John, a rugged fisherman who had a plan for his own life.  Jesus could see the raw ambition and lust for power. Jesus recognized the outspoken, brash, and intense personality of John.  So, looking at John one day, Jesus renamed him “Boanerges” the Aramaic name for a “Son of Thunder.”

John and his brother James were probably the most ambitious of all the disciples.  It was John who led the discussion about who is the greatest among the disciples. It was John who forbade a man from casting out demons because they were not in the inner circle of the disciples.  They certainly had no scruples about making their intentions and ambitions known:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. (Mark 10:35-41)

Just do “whatever we ask”? Is this not the picture of arrogance and presumption? Then when Jesus challenged them if they understood what they were asking, they didn’t back down one bit.  They said “we are able”! This is most definitely a son of thunder.

But here’s what I find amazing.  Jesus never lost faith in John.  In spite of such arrogance and pride, Jesus loved John.  Jesus saw something in John that even John didn’t see in himself.  Can you imagine the incredible love Jesus had for John that he would take this ambitious, even foolish man into His inner circle and so deeply love him?

Jesus had a vision for John.  Jesus could see that love for God and the kingdom would replace lust for power and position.  John never lost his personality as a Son of Thunder, but instead of a passion for position, John was transformed into a Son of Thunder for God’s love. John would be changed from being full of himself to being full of God’s love.

Somewhere in his journey, John was changed from being a “Son of Thunder” to becoming “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  I believe John experienced the love of Jesus day after day and this love of the Spirit chipped away at his ambition and lust.  This constant exposure to the light of the agape love of Jesus gradually drove back the darkness in John’s life.

John was so transformed by the love of Jesus that he even forgets who he once was.  In all of his writings, John never identifies himself as a Son of Thunder. But five times in his gospel he self identifies as “the one whom Jesus loved.”  John mentions God’s love twenty six times in his gospel, almost more than all the other three gospels combined.  If we combine John’s mentioning of agape love in all his letters, it is over seventy five times! John is overwhelmed with the revolutionary love of His Savior, Friend , and Lord.

As an old man, at 90 years old, John wrote his signature of how he wanted to be remembered, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper. “ (John 21:20)  John wanted to be remembered, not for what he had done for Jesus, but rather how he related to Jesus. John’s identity was based in his relationship with Jesus not his ministry for Jesus. 

The Thunder of God’s Heart

John had discovered that the thunder of God’s heart is love.  Jesus didn’t die of asphyxiation while on the cross, Jesus didn’t die from shock on the cross, Jesus died of a broken heart.  Jesus died because of His great love for you and me.  And the greatest act and symbol of the love of Christ is the cross.  Mother Teresa once wrote,

Our vocation is the conviction that “I belong to Him.” Because I belong to Him, He must be free to use me.  I must surrender completely.  When we look at his cross, we understand his love.  His head is bent down to kiss us.  His hands are extended to embrace us.  His heart is wide open to receive us.  This is what we have to be in the world today.  We too must have our head bent down to our people—they are Jesus in disguise…He said, “You did it to Me.  I was hungry…I was naked…I was homeless.” Let us not make the mistake of thinking that the hunger is only for a piece of bread.  The hunger today is much greater; it is a hunger for love, to be wanted, to be cared for, to be somebody.  (Mother Teresa: Contemplative at the Heart of the World by Angelo Devananda)

All of us are hungry for this love—it is the true longing, the true desire of our lives.  We all need a revolution of love.  John knew this love and he wrote 1 John that we would understand with our heart that each of us can be renamed, “the disciple whom Jesus loves,” present tense.

Jesus’ arms are open wide to embrace you!  Jesus’ heart is wide open to bless you!  Jesus wants your heart.  John Eldredge writes,

What [God] is after is us—our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our heart of hearts.  Remember his lament in Isaiah, that though his people were performing all their duties, “their hearts were far from Me” (29:13)  How few of us really believe this.  We’ve never been wanted for our heart, our truest self, not really, not for long.  The thought that God wants our heart seems too good to be true.  (The Sacred Romance)

God wants your heart!  He wants to know you deeply just for the fact that He created you for fellowship, and really loves you.  This is the revolution:  discovering the thunder of God’s heart for you.  Have you discovered this love?