"Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
The sign that we are beginning to understand what life is about is when our lives begin to be rooted and grounded in love. Hermeneutics is a field of study in which we try to understand and apply the rules of interpretation. It is one of the core classes you would take if you were to attend a Christian seminary or bible college before you were let loose writing papers and making sermons announcing to the world what Jesus, the apostles and the prophets are really saying in the Bible.
One of the purposes of such a class is to keep people from turning the Bible into a horoscope column in which you can make the verses mean whatever you want them to mean. The goal of Bible study is to hear from God and not simply to hear what is already in your own heart or mind. It is to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus rather than to make the Lord into our image.
Having said that, I think that it doesn't take too much reading and reflecting upon the gospels or the rest of Scripture to realize that this is the story of the sacrificial love of God overflowing into a broken and fallen world. It is the determination of that God to bring creatures corrupted by sin back into the community and communion of love as deeply loved and wholly committed contributors. You see, you know you are getting what the Bible is about when your life begins to be consumed with two glorious priorities: loving God and love one another.
I would encourage you, for example, to read through an epistle like the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians. It is only a couple of pages long in your Bible but you can't help but get the interpretive key not simply to the meaning of the Bible but to life as a whole. In chapter one, Paul blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because He has given us every spiritual blessing. Then, the apostle explains that this was all initiated by God who was acting in love (1:3-5). It is not incidental that when we are told that God gave us all these blessings in Christ that he calls Jesus "the Beloved" in verse 6. The love of God the Father and God the Son is bubbling over into our broken world and into our lives.
The story of our rescue from the disaster of sin is laid out for us in the second chapter. Without any ambiguity, Paul writes these words in the fourth verse, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved." Let there be no doubt. God's love towards lost broken defeated sinners is the starting point of the great news of salvation. It is clearly the greatness of God's love that Paul intends to magnify.
As the letter begins to shift towards application, Paul invites the Ephesian believers to remember that they were once far from God (2:11-22). So, in fact, was the apostle Paul. He spends the first half of the third chapter marvelling that God would let someone with his background be an apostle. Yet, that is exactly the point. Who better to show love and to go tell others of the magnificence of the love of God, then someone who knows firsthand that God's love is great enough to extend mercy to even an arrogant, self-righteous, bigoted hater as he was? God's love is greater than all our sin.
This explains then what the bigger vision is within Paul's heart. His vision is the vast expansion of the love of God into the lives of undeserving people everywhere by means of undeserving people who already have been transformed by its power. He explains that this is why he prays that they all "being rooted and grounded in love may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled up with all the fullness of God." Those words from the end of chapter three teach very clearly that the goal is that we become loving like God. To fill the earth with God's love happens when our lives begin to be rooted and grounded in that love. You can't see the height and depth and width and breadth of what God's love is until each of us begin to grow down deep in that love ourselves. The power to change the world is beyond what any of us could ever ask or imagine, declares Paul.
In chapter four, we are urged to put away all the trash that is not consistent with the real life that God has called us to in Christ. We are called to replace it with a whole new persona that God provides for us in Jesus. We are no longer what we once were. We are the people of God by faith in His Son. Love is to flow through us like the waters of a pure mountain stream down into the broken war torn valleys of this world while the song is sung of the love of God who so loved us that He gave His Son to rescue us.
In chapter 5, Paul gives this exhortation, "Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." God loved us and gave us His own Son. Jesus loved us and died to pay for humanity's wretched sin. Christ loved God and offered Himself up to God as a sacrifice because His Father loved us enough to save us. Love. Love. Love.
Do you see what I mean when I say that love is the hermeneutic of life? When you start to love as God has loved us, you are beginning to understand. When we humble ourselves and follow the example of Jesus and show our love to God by serving one another, we are, in fact, heading down the right path. Chapter six of Ephesians says it won't be easy. However, our fight isn't against one another. Our fight is against evil and wickedness. It is a spiritual war which God has determined to win. He struck the death blow to evil when His Son offered Himself for sinners. Now, it is time for that love to flow into the hearts of men, women and children.
Happy Valentines Day. (That is the day that I am writing this.) May the Lord help you to be rooted and grounded in love so that all of us together might begin to comprehend how high and wide and deep and long is the love of God in Christ Jesus!