Tuesday, 7 June 2011

1 We love because God first loved us

The Cape Town Commitment is a fruit of The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, October 2010. 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries met together, with the goal - to bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching - in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas.

The statement is in two parts. Part I sets out biblical convictions, passed down to us in the scriptures, and Part II sounds the call to action. As we need to hear the voice of believers in other countries filling in our blind spots, and need to call each other on to faithfulness to the Lord we love, I'll be posting excerpts from The Cape Town Commitment. Each is worth reflection. (It is also available in Arabic, German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Spanish, and can be purchased from your local Christian bookshop or online.)

1 We love because God first loved us

The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves. World evangelization is the outflow of God’s love to us and through us. We affirm the primacy of God’s grace and we then respond to that grace by faith, demonstrated through the obedience of love. We love because God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.[1]

A    Love for God and love for neighbour constitute the first and greatest commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets. Love is the fulfilling of the law, and the first named fruit of the Spirit. Love is the evidence that we are born again; the assurance that we know God; and the proof that God dwells within us. Love is the new commandment of Christ, who told his disciples that only as they obeyed this commandment would their mission be visible and believable. Christian love for one another is how the unseen God, who made himself visible through his incarnate Son, goes on making himself visible to the world. Love was among the first things that Paul observed and commended among new believers, along with faith and hope. But love is the greatest, for love never ends.[2]

B    Such love is not weak or sentimental. The love of God is covenantally faithful, committed, self-giving, sacrificial, strong, and holy. Since God is love, love permeates God’s whole being and all his actions, his justice as well as his compassion. God’s love extends over all his creation. We are commanded to love in ways that reflect the love of God in all those same dimensions. That is what it means to walk in the way of the Lord. [3]

C    So in framing our convictions and our commitments in terms of love, we are taking up the most basic and demanding biblical challenge of all:
  1. to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength;
  2. to love our neighbour (including the foreigner and the enemy) as ourselves;
  3. to love one another as God in Christ has loved us, and
  4. to love the world with the love of the One who gave his only Son that the world through him might be saved.[4]
D    Such love is the gift of God poured out in our hearts, but it is also the command of God requiring the obedience of our wills. Such love means to be like Christ himself: robust in endurance, yet gentle in humility; tough in resisting evil, yet tender in compassion for the suffering; courageous in suffering and faithful even unto death. Such love was modelled by Christ on earth and is measured by the risen Christ in glory.[5] 

We affirm that such comprehensive biblical love should be the defining identity and hallmark of disciples of Jesus. In response to the prayer and command of Jesus, we long that it should be so for us. Sadly we confess that too often it is not. So we re-commit ourselves afresh to make every effort to live, think, speak and behave in ways that express what it means to walk in love - love for God, love for one another and love for the world.

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