“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I looked up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” Psalm 63:3
Yesterday, I wrote about the amazing gesture of adoration the woman in John 12 gave to Jesus by pouring a bottle of pure nard, an entire years wages worth, onto His feet. The follow-up question that must be broached is what would bring about such an extravagant gesture? What drove her to such an act?
The only thing I can think of is that it is in response to an even greater love. She somehow received a love from Christ that was as profound or even greater. That is similar to what the Psalmist says in the above passage. He says that his praise (or activism) was in direct response to a love that is better than life itself!
For the Christian, this love is most beautifully and tragically demonstrated in the crucifixion of Jesus. A group of us are reading a series of weighty theological books right now - the current one being Hans Urs von Balthasar’s, Mysterium Paschale. I feel smarter just typing that out (and my Word spell-checker is just freak’in out)!?!?
Anyway, Balthasar writes,
“The cross is…the event towards which the history of his (Jesus’) life is oriented and through which it's other episodes receive their meaning. The cross is the midpoint of saving history, all the promises are realized in it, every aspect of the Law, with its quality as curse, is dashed to pieces on the Cross.” (p.17)
In other words, what Christ did on the Cross changes everything. Personally, it certainly did and continues to for me. The trajectory of my life has been permanently altered as a result of the forgiveness, that for me was only discovered and received in Jesus.
Although, the Biblical location of the story of Martha and Mary is certainly found pre-crucifixion, the reality of forgiveness is firmly fixed within the Gospel account. In a similar story involving a different woman but the same type of gesture, Jesus tethers the motivation of her extravagant love to this idea of forgiveness. He says to his guest, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
My concern is that many people today who are involved in the Missional conversation are not living into such a responsive life. As the Apostle John put it, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10) Our activism is always a 2nd movement. They are surely motivated to do good, to care for others and to act forcefully for justice in the world (all critical Kingdom activities), but are missing the important centered concept of Christ’s all loving act of dying on a cross for the forgiveness of their sins. His death obviously carries with it more meaning than forgiveness, but it certainly doesn’t carry less. For me, living outward toward the world with compassion is inseparablely connected to my experience of forgiveness of my sins.
“Because your love is better than life…
I serve those who have little or nothing, I contour my life so that it coincides with your Kingdom, I sacrifice in small and large way, and I will give all, even a year’s wages!