Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Jesus' Love Ethic Is Spirit-Produced In Us (PrayerLife)

Kibera, in Nairobi
One aspect of New Testament ethics is that it is an ethic of love. The two greatest commandments, said Jesus, are to love God with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then to love one's neighbor as you love your own self. (Matthew 22:36-39) These commands involve the condition of one's heart, and are not mere matters of outward compliance. 

In the ethics of Jesus there is a special place for the poor. For example, in the parable of the invitation to the banquet the servant is commanded by his master to bring in the poor, crippled, blind, lame, the street people of first-century Israel. This is a way of demonstrating the agape love of God which is non-hierarchical and unconditional. 

Anyone who thinks following Jesus' love ethic is easy to do has wrongly identified comprehension with matters of the heart. This is far from easy, in our natural state. Many are those that understand, few are those that do.

R. Scott Smith writes:

"How are Christians to live this kind of ethic? They cannot live it out just by education and self-discipline. Instead, they can live it out only in utter dependence upon the indwelling power of the Spirit of Christ. Thus, the Holy Spirit is necessary for the moral life for a kingdom member, and this is where the virtues enter into our discussion. Indeed, the New Testament places a very strong emphasis on the virtues, with the goal of becoming like Jesus. Yet the virtues are not divorced from commands and principles. They work together, such that the moral life is not just doing the right thing or avoiding doing wrong. It is about becoming like Jesus, and that should issue forth in certain kinds of actions." (R. Scott Smith, In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy, Kindle Locations 314-319)

The virtue of love, as with all moral virtues of Jesus, fruit of the Spirit. "The Holy Spirit produces these virtues in Christians. Yes, there are things believers are to do to cultivate them, but the Holy Spirit is necessary for their realization." (Ib., Kindle Locations 322-323) These virtues represent our goal, which is becoming like Jesus in character.

The Spirit grows this fruit as we live like branches connected to Jesus the True Vine. One major way of connecting is by being a praying person. Praying is the intimate God-connection par excellence. A praying person is a fruit-bearing person, to include a loving and compassionate person.