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Faith Expressed as Love

Monday, July 17, 2017

Faith and Belief

Faith Expresses as Love
Monday, July 17, 2017

Today Brian McLaren continues reflecting on faith and belief:

We could say that Christian faith (like many other faiths) was an engine of human cultural evolution when it came on the scene. It introduced new beliefs into human consciousness that liberated millions from older and less helpful beliefs. (Those beliefs themselves may have been liberating and helpful when they were first introduced, but having fulfilled their purpose became unhelpful and even imprisoning.) But eventually, by defining itself as a settled system of beliefs, Christianity . . . became a leash or a locked door impeding ongoing growth instead of a force for liberation and forward movement.

That’s why members of the Christian faith (like members of many other faiths) now face this critical question: must we stay where we are, forever defining ourselves as a system of beliefs, or may we migrate to a new understanding of Christian faith as a way of life . . . ? If such a migration is possible, how would we describe that way of life . . . ?

If we are to be truly Christian, it makes sense to turn to Jesus for the answer.

Of the many radical things said and done by Jesus, his unflinching emphasis on love was the most radical of all. Love was the greatest commandment, he said (Matthew 22:37-40). It was his new commandment, his prime directive—love for God, for self, for neighbor, for stranger, . . . and even for enemy, as he himself modeled. The new commandment of love meant neither beliefs nor words, neither taboos, systems, structures nor the labels that enshrined them mattered most. Love decentered [and] relativized everything else; love took priority over everything else. [1]

Early in his life, Paul (then known as Saul) had no time for this kind of love talk. He was a religious-correctness man, not a love man. To guard the purity of his code, he was even willing to kill (Acts 9:1). But Paul was converted, deeply converted, and he migrated from religious correctness to love.

In fact, in his writings he not only echoed Jesus’s radical proposal but made it even more explicit. There were nearly nine hundred rules identified by his religion, but you could trade them all up for this one, he said: “The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6). [2]

Jesus and Paul were not denying their religion . . . ; they were faithfully extending it, letting it grow and flow forward. In Jesus’s words, they weren’t “abolishing the law,” but rather they were “fulfilling it”—fulfilling its intent, fulfilling its potential (Matthew 5:17). Love was already part of the tradition, as Deuteronomy 6:5 makes clear; they were saying it was the most important part of the tradition. They were decentering old things—religious rules, temples, sacrifice, hierarchies, and the like—and recentering the tradition on love. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. —Proverbs 3:5

[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), 41-42. Please visit to learn more about his work.
[2] Ibid., 44-45.
[3] Ibid., 46.

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