Many popular Bible teachers write and speak from a very propositional perspective regarding salvation. In other words, there are certain, specific propositions to be believed, and in so doing, one is “saved.” While I agree that there are certain things to believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the Sacraments, etc., beliefs about those categories are not the essence of salvation. Salvation is a relationship with God, made possible by Jesus Christ and attested to by the Holy Spirit, and it is to be enjoyed within the fellowship of the Body of Christ, the Church.
The contours of this experience are described in a library of 66 books, that together reveal God’s story. We are all invited to enter this story and find our place in it. Whereas at one point in this story, the key element was adherence to the law of God, since the time of Jesus, the key element has been love—God’s unconditional love for the world, and Jesus’ perfect example of both his love to God the Father, and his self-emptying love for humankind.
We only confuse when we re-introduce God’s law as the key element of this story. By doing so, we confuse those who seriously and earnestly seek God and his presence in their experience. Furthermore, we needlessly distort the character of our relationship with God when we shift the focus from love to law.
Some believers and Bible teachers will see an advantage in resetting the terms of humankind’s relationship with God to one emphasizing his law and his commands. The law offers a very tangible means of determining who’s in, and who’s out. It facilitates hierarchical structures which are based on power and authority. In the name of adherence to God’s law, aggressive, often authoritarian teaching surreptitiously assumes the place and role of the Holy Spirit as Counselor and Teacher. The legalistic setting of ancient Israel is transferred across time and becomes the setting in which the contents of the Bible are read, studied, and communicated. Such Bible teachers often assume an authority that should be left to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, we come to the story of God (the Bible) viewing it through one of two lenses. If we view it through the lens of God’s law, then everything; from the character of God to the requirement for participation in God’s life will be seen as demanding, rigid, inflexible, and frankly, just beyond the capability of anyone to perpetually achieve. If we come to the story of God through the lenses of God’s love, then we find ourselves welcomed into a warm, accepting, mutual, and expanding relationship of love. It begins not with adherence to a law or legal system, but with an unconditional invitation to receive a heretofore unknown, unrealized love. With it there is an invitation to accept this love and allow oneself to be transformed by it in a mutual relationship of self-giving reciprocity.
If the lens through which we view our relationship to and with God is law, then our response will be to study, learn, incorporate, behave, and measure up to God’s law and command.
If the lens we use is God’s love, then our response will be to worship, adore, and encounter the living God who invites us to fellowship with him. In the preceding example we might say that the tone is always, “God commands us.” In love, we might say, “God invites us.”
Who will serve God most effectively: those who serve from command or invitation?
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