Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
When there is discussion about disunity in the church, many say that only "Christian love" can heal those divisions. But what is "Christian love"? Just being nice? Many Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims are "nice." What is uniquely "Christian" about "love"?
The Holy Spirit has injected into the New Testament word for "love" a meaning that non-Christian ideas of love do not, cannot, realize. The reason is that the ordinary idea of "love" presupposes a doctrine held in common by Catholics, Lutherans, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus--that is, the natural immortality of the human soul. The ultimate source of that doctrine is paganism. Well, it actually came from the Garden of Eden when "the serpent" told our first parent Eve the lie, "You will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4).
This doctrine makes it impossible to "comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (Eph. 3:17-19). It's different than any other idea of love in this world; it is "agape," a love that Jesus was willing to sacrifice eternal life so that we might have eternal life.
His cross was more than physical pain followed by a weekend "vacation." He died the death in which there is no hope, no future, a surrender to eternal darkness of being "forsaken" by God, of enduring what Paul calls "the curse" of God, a "goodbye" forever. It was the death of the cumulative, total guilt of all the world's sins. It was on His part the conscious choice to experience hell itself. "For everyone," He "tasted death," the real thing, the anguish the lost will feel at last when they stand before the judgment bar of God.
As our "last Adam," the second Adam, Christ, died the second death of "everyone" (see Heb. 2:9; Rev. 2:11; 20:14). Isaiah says He "poured out His soul unto death" (53:12). A love "which passes knowledge"? Yes! But the pagan doctrine of natural immortality makes it impossible for us even to begin to appreciate its dimensions. The idea of agape is being recovered; the Good News is that it will bring true unity within the church.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 30, 1999.
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