Applied Love and Mercy

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

It was this video that started me thinking yesterday. An aged Brennan Manning sits in obvious deterioration eeking out a few words about love. The younger him begs us to believe that we are loved, that there is mercy, that a Father’s love passes through “fidelity and infidelity,” through “the morning sun and the evening rain.”

I sent this video to a friend, a good soul who lives out Gospel better than I could ever hope, and he told me that he still struggles to believe it all. So he works. And his works are good but they do not produce love. And he feels this tension so he works more. It is an unending cycle, an addict’s plight. If we are honest, we are all so guilty.

Last night some friends pushed me through Luke 6. The words of Christ to a double oppressed people were difficult. “Love the Romans,” he says; “love your own religious oppressors. If you want to find out what God is like, love. God loved evil people, sinners who could not keep the law. God loved you. And by the way, be merciful. Your father has been more than merciful to you.”

There are those who teach that the theology of love is too easy, a lazy man’s easy way out. “What about truth,” they say, and by it they really mean “what about scripture memory, and theological constructs, and the Greek and the Hebrew, and the soup kitchen, and Tuesday night visitation, and for the sake of everything that is holy, what about apologetics? Apologetics are the most important.” Those things are good, no doubt. But with apologies I ask, “what about applied love and mercy?”

Manning asks it differently, “do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?”

His question is not rhetorical.

*Thanks for the video, John. Looking forward to reading your tag-team effort.

**Photo credit.

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9 Responses to Applied Love and Mercy

  1. Extremely Challenging. The amazingly difficult thing is that we have managed to turn love into a work. We guilt people into service, into Scripture with statements like “you do love God don’t you” “What would Jesus do?” and the like.

    Love is work, it takes effort, but it is not a work. Love is a heart that is changed by Love. I wouldn’t have known how to love my wife had I not witnessed love through my parents relationship and other great adults in my community. We know how to love because he loved us, and his love is SO hard. Loving both the oppressed and the oppressor. Eating with tax collectors while one in his group is a zealot–his love must have been amazing to allow those two to sit together and eat.

  2. Matt S says:

    That last post was me, but for some reason, it logged me in with an old blog that I don’t really use anymore.

  3. Seth, I’m glad the video stirred such things in you…his question, the one you concluded with, is the question we’re all asked…and we can only live into the answer…

  4. J. Ray says:

    Heard something a long time ago that has stuck with me when thinking about things like this. “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning”. Love takes effort, all the more in loving ourselves, and that starts with believing that God loves us. Period. No clauses, No addendums, no fine print. Just love writ large.

    One thing I have been forced to deal with lately is the “direction” of atonement. Most of our evangelical propaganda has led us to believe it is God who has been offended and God who must be appeased (by faith, blood, etc…). But I am started to believe it is God who has been abandoned and we who must be reconciled. The atonement makes that possible, but we are the one who must be reconciled, not God. The atonement is for our reconciliation, not God’s appeasement. His love would allow for nothing less.

  5. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for these thoughts and the video (oh, God, the video). Love reading your blog, Seth.

    • sethhaines says:

      Thanks, Amanda. I’ve been kind of quiet around here lately. The wife’s almost to popping with number four and work has been giving me a run for the money. A nice comment like this is almost enough to get me back at it.

  6. hamster says:

    those look like mike ness’s hands.

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