Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How great is the love

Building on the post below about the gospel, and resuming something from many posts ago, a series of reflections on 1 John and the Anglican Communion, we may find some leads for present guidance through pondering the character of the God of the gospel, who is Love, creating humanity out of love, for love, that is, for communion with God, which necessarily is a communion with each other.

Thus the natural language of John, who is the specific vessel for the simplest and profoundest disclosure of God, "God is love" (1 J 4:9), is saying things such as,

"How great is the love that the Father has shown to us! We are called God's children, and such we are; and the reason why the godless world does not recognise us is that it has no known him. Here and now, dear friends, we are God's children; what we shall be has not been disclosed, but we know that when it is disclosed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope before him purifies himself, as Christ is pure" (1 J 3:1-3).

God's love is great, those responding to that love are drawn into God's family; that response is dividing between responders and non responders, yet the greatness of God's love does not finish with acceptance of us as we are, but opens the future in which we shall be more like God and less like our current selves, encouraging us to do what we can now to be pure as Christ is pure.

For the Anglican Communion we are encouraged that we have been well named - the church of God is a people drawn into communion with God, for Love can only relate in mutual love between lover and loved. Yet this 'love' and the God who is 'Love' is spoken of in terms distinct from worldly definitions of 'love' in terms of tolerance, acceptance, encouragement to be one's self. Love is restless with who we are, drawing us into a future in which we 'shall be like him', and motivating us in the present to 'purify self'. A true Communion of the people of God is impelled by the God who is Love to never accept itself as it is but to be open to the future of God which is not yet fully disclosed, except in the general disclosure that we shall be like Christ.

Thus, at any time in the history of the Communion, and certainly at this present time of fractured union, we should have no pride in the quality of our communion, but be continually purifying ourselves. And we should be concerned lest the world recognises us and commends us, for that could mean that we were insufficiently reflective of the distinctive character of God.

Yet for our continuing discussion on the present state of our life together, in which vitriol, haughtiness, and rudeness feature, we should be asking whether this tonal quality to our speech is loving, reflective of Christ, and indicative of being 'pure'? The apostle John both praises and proclaims the infinite love of God when he opens this part of his epistle with, 'How great is the love which the Father has shown to us!' To be a Communion is to understand, at least in part, the extent of that greatness. Is that understanding motivating how we speak the truth in love to one another?

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