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The Privilege of Love

A couple of years ago the car insurance company called Privilege, run a series of TV adverts fronted by the celebrty Joanna Lumley. The adverts showed how the upper class in our society live – fox hunting, elegant parties, large mansions and even having house servants. The adverts always end with the slogan: “With Privilege Car Insurance, you don't have to be posh to be privileged".I could never warm up to the advert because getting car insurance has never felt like a privilege to me. I have car insurance because I have to!

I suppose that is how many of us feel when it comes to the issue of love. Some of you have been badly treated in the past by someone. May be someone said some nasty things about you. Or perhaps your parents were abusive. Or maybe you shared a class at school or currently work with someone who is a bully. Loving such people seems impossible!

The Bible says God not only commands us to love one another, he enables us to do that by giving us a new heart of love. More than that God has shown us what true love looks like by sending the Eternal Son of God, as a gift of love to us. And yet, this passage in John goes even deeper:
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. [1 JOHN 4:12-13]
John observes that God is invisible. A common reason many people give for why they do not believe in God is that in their opinion there is no evidence for God. What they mean by that is that they cannot see God with their eyes, or feel and touch him, to be confident that he exists! Of course, the idea that we have to see God physically to accept he exists does not make sense because most of the things we value in life are things we cannot see with the naked eye (love, air, scientific forces) 

In fact, God is not embarrassed by his invisibility. Bible tells us plainly here that no human being has seen God in his full essence.  Why is that? Because God is a Spirit. There is no physical material in God. The technical term we use is incorporeal. God does not have a body like us. God has no physical body. The physical world was made by God. So he is over and above all created reality. He is above space, time and matter!

When people demand that God should appear physically and roam around, they simply want a God who is like us. That is no God at all. A God who has a body would not be God because he would be limited in his presence and knowledge like Superman (also he would be threatening). The true God is above every dimension in the universe. Therefore, in some sense God will always be beyond us or transcendent.

This does not mean we cannot know God. The Bible says even though we cannot see God directly in his full glory we have in fact seen Him physically. God appeared temporarily at various times in the Old Testament in human form to different people (theophanies). God has finally come to be with us forever as a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So when John says no one has ever seen God he means that no one has ever seen God in his full glory as he is – as God the Father, Son and Spirit!

But here is the good news of God’s invisibility: this invisible God lives in all true followers of Jesus. The invisibility of God enables Him to live us! Here is a riddle : Imagine you are in a room, and everyone else leaves. How many people are left in the room? Most people would say one. But John says two. The extraordinary claim of the Bible is that God lives in every person who has turned from sin and placed their trust in Jesus.

Child psychologists say that if you show new babies a toy and then remove it from their sight, they do not realise that the toy still exists. As adults, we are a bit like that. Life is often a case of out of sight, out of mind. John is aware of this and does not want us to think like that about God. Though we cannot see God, he lives in us by God the Spirit.

When you wake up, he is there. When you get on that train to work and you are worried about safety, He is there. When you go and see the doctors about something, He is there. As you enter the job interview room, God is in you and with you! God is not just from the outside looking in, His Spirit is in you. God has the best front row seat to your life. So you are never alone. Your life is His life.

But here is even a more mind shattering truth. The invisible God has given all followers of Jesus the amazing privilege of making him visible to people through our love for others. The Christian community is like a scratch card – a card where sections of it are covered in an opaque waxy substance. You need to scrap it to reveal what you have won. Scratch cards are in many shopping magazines.

In the same way, because God is love and He lives in us, when followers of Jesus come together it should produce a friction of love that makes the invisible God who lives in us visible. And the more we grow to love others, the more the true colours of God’s love shines through us (perfected), and the more people see God.

This means that far from love being a tiresome obligation, it is in fact an incredible privilege to reveal God to everyone around you. As people around gets to see us loving one another, laughing and crying together, forgiving and serving and just hanging out in love, they see God being revealed in Jesus. And some of them begin to want to live for Him. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield starts her powerful memoir, the Secret Thoughts of A Unlikely Convert with the following words:
When I was 28yrs old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. I was finishing my PhD in English Literature and Cultural Studies. I was a teaching in one of the strongest Women’s Studies Departments in the country and was sought after by universities to advance radical leftist ideologies. At the age of 36, I was one of the few women resident professors at a large research university, a rising administrator and community activist. By all standards, I had made it. That same year, Christ claimed me for himself and the life that I had known and loved came to a humiliating end.
How did Rosaria life turn upside down? She tells us later in the memoir it all begun with the love of a Christian couple Ken and Floy: "One thing that really struck me about Ken and Floy’s character during these years was how unselfish they were. I observed that they fed and housed and counselled countless people from all walks of life. I saw how wide the door to their home and the door to their heart opened. I remember feeling like I could talk to them about anything".

Many of us are followers of Jesus because the love of some Christians met drew us into a deeper relationship God and made us see God more clearly Your love within your church and to people you meet everyday makes God visible! And that is an amazing privilege God has given you in Jesus! God could have chosen to make himself more visible by other means. But he given you this privilege to make Him visible by your love for others!

So yes, Joanna Lumley is right, you don’t have to be posh to be privileged. But that is only true with Jesus who gives us the priceless privilege of love! How should we respond to this privilege from God? The way we respond to every privilege we get it: we must receive it gratefully!

For some of us this means forgiving your boss for blaming you for doing something you didn’t do; or forgiving that lecturer for their incompetence or unfairness. Why? Because “love keeps no record of wrongs”. For some of you it means stopping whatever you are doing right away when your dad or mum asks you to do something else instead. Why? Because “love is not self-seeking”. So put them dad first, you second!

For all of us it means asking yourself this question and praying about it: How much of my time and money is dedicated to my own goals and ambitions, and how much of it is set aside to do something for someone else, because I love that person more than I love myself? Such a question can leave us feeling guilty. But remember: love is privilege to make God visible and there many opportunities for us to do it!

So do not delay. Accept the privilege right away by first thanking God for it and then ask him to give you strength to live it out in where God has placed!

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Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2017

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