The moral engine, the guiding core, the central ethical kernel of Jesus’ life was love: voluntary love to the Father, and voluntary love to others.
Love has been stretched as a word to cover so many topics and emotions that it now fails as a canvas to hold the full portrait of Jesus’ love.
In fact, the only thing big enough to hold the moral portrait of Jesus love is His life: His birth on earth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection and His work of intersession and advocacy. Jesus alone is big enough as a canvas of love.
I am drawn to two aspects of that love: choice and sacrifice.
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:18
Jesus was given the freedom to decide by the Father and He exercised that freedom in a choice. He willed it, He selected it, and in the deepest ethos, was in charge at all times of His loving. No one forced Him. He willed to do it.
The first core moral aspect of love is deep freedom not to. Only then is it love chosen.
The second core aspect of love is help to the other. Responding to the need or want or desire of the other. Other-centeredness most manifests itself in sacrifice.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
David understood that when
“But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. Then the LORD spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered sacrifices there.” 1 Chronicles 21: 24-28.
Two engines of morality and love: freedom and sacrifice.
Freedom without sacrifice is just selfish liberty–great stuff, but not enough to give you traction on the road of life.
Sacrifice without freedom is abuse, self-abuse or abuse by verbal or spiritual or physical control form another. It shows up with lots of fear, drudgery, duty and manifests itself in rape, murder, being stolen from or stealing from others. It is tragic.
As Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 13, love with only sacrifice is “nothing.”
It seems if we want to increase morality, keeping these two “chemicals” of love mixed in our lives is crucial. Total freedom. And Concern for others.
How do we that?
Well, that is why the Christian life starts with a birth but continues as a growth. Through parenting, mentoring, or teaching we help each other. It is only in a community that is following Love itself that we can we catch glimpses of how that looks, feels, and “works itself out.” That is why we stay in the Word, in Prayer, and in Church. Those are the places that God invested with His Spirit to be able to “guide us into all truth” John 15-17.
Jesus, canvas of love, the perfect presentation of the moral life, we don’t get this right most of the time. Keep teaching us.
Image: Steps to Christ is one of the best Christian books of all time. It has had many different covers. I highly recommend it as an introduction to Christ’s love.