Love and Obedience, part 3

The Verb and the Motive

While obedience is the primary way we express our love to God, it is not the same as love. Love is essentially a motive; it is a verb. If I were married, I am to love my wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). For every Christian, Christ Himself commands that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). In each instance, love is used as a verb; not a feeling. While Disney, Miramax, Chinese soap shows/movies and popular radio will tell us that love is a noun, something that we fall into… Scripture again paints us a completely different picture: love is something we do.

As a motive, love is that which prompts and guides other verbs and actions. For example, I love my enemies first by forgiving them of their harmful actions toward me, and then by seeking their welfare in appropriate ways. The verbs here are forgive and seek. Love always needs other verbs to give it hands and feet, for by itself it can do nothing. This is clearly seen in 1 Corinthian 13 where the noun love is used by Paul as the subject of a whole list of action statements.

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Love and Obedience, part 2

Betrayal.

Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend? You know, somebody whom you thought loved you and cared about you, whom you thought was on your side… Maybe you’ve been a disloyal friend like that to somebody else?

There is a saying that goes like… “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” But the fact of the matter is, it will only stab you in the back eventually, and you won’t even have seen it coming.

But for Jesus, He saw it coming, and in a sense, He didn’t get stabbed in the back like we often are. He is fully God, and yet He was fully human; He felt the pain of searing loss of a beloved brother who said he loved Him. I am not talking about Judas, but about Simon Peter. This famous story is as recorded in John 21:15-19.

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Love and Obedience, part 1

There is a lot of talk about love these days, especially in the romantic sense. We live in a culture that is saturated with movies (which are generally all about love and relationships) and music (also about love and relationships) which convey the sense that this is something that we feel, a dreamy fairytale-like state-of-mind where all of life is hunk-dory, and prince charming flies in to sweep us of our feet and save the day!

In Scripture, however, we find the Divine foundation for love and the Biblical definition of love. Like Christ says in Matthew 22:37-40, the great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and the second is to love our neighbor as ourself. In one sense, Jesus Himself is affirming the Old Testament mosaic law, (Deut.6:5) to love God with all our heart, soul and might, confirming that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

As we read God’s words in Deuteronomy 6, we find that the primary message is obedience to God, and not “love” per se. Notice such words like commandments, statutes, and rules (NIV: commands, decrees, laws) are prominent, and how obedience to these commandments, statutes, and rules is emphasized.

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The Highest Place and the Greatest Honor

I can’t believe I found this on my portable hard-drive! Back in Toronto, I served 2 years as the Worship Coordinator for Ryerson University’s CCF (Chinese Christian Fellowship) for the school years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.

The following was my evaluation of the 2004-2005 ministry year, the theological reflections I presented to the CCF Planning Committee and fellowship.

May this be a blessing to you, as we think through how to live lives of worship — lifestyles that puts Christ at the highest place in our lives and gives the Father the greatest honor.


In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see,
first believe rather than understand,
first be grasped rather than grasp,
first be captured rather than capture,
first learn rather than teach,
first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.
We have an ear so that we may submit to others,
and eyes that we may take care of others.
Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others,
let him become an ear and a disciple first.
This first.

-Martin Luther, First Lectures on the Psalms II, Works II.245-246.

I think that there’s a tendency in fellowship to build up the next generation of leaders, and in so doing, we neglect our first and foremost mission that is to make “disciples.” We puff ourselves up to be “leaders” as if we have something to teach and change others. If we do this long enough via trial-and-error, I’ve personally found myself to be a failure at leadership. People don’t listen for one, they don’t learn anything, and don’t even embrace the Spirit-sanctified truth that is in our words. I think what God requires of us is what Luther said so plainly–we need to become disciples ourselves first, before we even remotely consider our role in leading others.
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How quickly things can change

On October 9th, 2006, I wrote…

It’s amazing how quickly things can change… but what’s equally amazing is how some things have never really changed at all. The truth is some things are probably never going to happen; and there things that are not going to change.

Nevertheless, we wonder… are there things in our world that can change??–things in our experience that can be altered? Are there things within the sovereign will of God that we have been given the ability to control? Are there aspects of our lives that we have been given the freedom to choose…that we must deal with personally so as to give glory to God and show the world that Christ is supreme?

Continue reading ‘Changing that which can be changed

Mindset, Motive, and Methodology

Before the turn of the new calendar year, let’s us reflect upon things that we need to change–aspects of our lives that God is calling us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in.

On October 9, 2006 I wrote this while having a coffee at a downtown Starbucks:

It’s amazing how quickly things can change… but what’s equally amazing is how some things have never really changed at all.  The truth is some things are probably never going to happen; and there things that are not going to change.

Nevertheless, we wonder… are there things in our world that can change??–things in our experience that can be altered?  Are there things within the sovereign will of God that we have been given the ability to control?  Are there aspects of our lives that we have been given the freedom to choose…that we must deal with personally so as to give glory to God and show the world that Christ is supreme?

The answer, of course, is YES–there is!  From what Paul has said to the Philippians in chapter 1 verses 12-20 of his letter to them, the apostle himself exhorts us that we can change a number of important things in our lives.  In these verses, I have found that God, through Paul, calls us even in this postmodern day to intentionally change that which can be changed–things we have control over–namely our mindset, motive, and methodology.  In these 3 areas, let us examine and evaluate ourselves, and to check and change that which needs to be changed.

Continue reading Changing that which can be changed“…

Love is not a feeling

More recently, I wrote a very personal series on love and obedience.  For a large part of the series, I was venting my disgust about some of the common misunderstandings about love and obedience held by people I know.  Here’s an excerpt: 

While obedience is the primary way we express our love to God, it is not the same as love.  Love is essentially a motive; it is a verb.  If I were married, I am to love my wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25).  For every Christian, Christ Himself commands that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  In each instance, love is used as a verb; not a feeling.  While Disney, Miramax, Chinese soap shows/movies and popular radio will tell us that love is a noun, something that we fall into… Scripture again paints us a completely different picture: love is something we do.

As a motive, love is that which prompts and guides other verbs and actions.  For example, I love my enemies first by forgiving them of their harmful actions toward me, and then by seeking their welfare in appropriate ways.  The verbs here are forgive and seek.  Love always needs other verbs to give it hands and feet, for by itself it can do nothing.  This is clearly seen in 1 Corinthian 13 where the noun love is used by Paul as the subject of a whole list of action statements.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

While this passage is too often misused for romantic relationships, the context in this passage is to the Christians in Corinth; the message about how to love one another is about people within the Body of Christ, that is followers of Jesus.  In relating to brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to be patient, and kind.  We are not to envy, and not to boast, and so on.  It is genuine love that drives us bear all things, to believe, to hope, to endure.

To do all these things is to be obedient to Him; and being obedient means we love Him.

Moreover, it is love that gives validity to any of our actions and makes them acceptable to God.  We could choose to seek the welfare of our enemies so they’ll be nice to us and not harm us–but such is manipulation, not love.  Hence, love for God is the only acceptable motive for obedience to Him.  This love may express itself in a reverence for Him and a desire to please Him, but those expressions must spring from love.  Without the motive of love, our apparent obedience may be essentially self-serving.

After writting this series, I realized that I myself had a long way to go in loving and obeying God.  In failing to love others, I failed in obeying God; in failing to love God, I failed in serving others obediently.

Anyways, check out the rest of the series here:

Love and Obedience: part 1, part 2, and part 3