By Femi Aribisala
A true believer only does things because it is the love thing to do.
In spite of several subtle nudging from the Lord about her deplorable condition, I refused to give Bolaji Ogundimu a housing loan. My position was that several others applied before her. So the Lord decided to set me up. I needed to catch a plane out of New York. By the time it was my turn, the counter was closed. Then the Lord said to me: “So Femi, how do you expect to get on this plane?” I finally saw the light and plea-bargained: “Only your love, Daddy; only your love can get me on this plane.”
On many occasions, Jesus broke the rules out of love. He could not help himself; he had to respond in love. When his mother told him at the wedding in Cana that they had run out of wine, he observed that it was not yet the time for miracles. Jesus was following God’s timing. But suddenly man’s needs preceded God’s timing.
The wedding hosts knew nothing about God’s timing. Had they known, they might have scheduled the wedding for a later date. But the love of God could not but respond to human need. Accordingly, Jesus was often moved by compassion. Some of his most astounding miracles came as a response to human need. He multiplied loaves and fed the multitude because he was moved with compassion for people who had been without food for three days. And so at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus was compelled to turn water into wine. He did this out of season because he was moved by love.
The Greek woman who prayed to Jesus for the healing of her daughter did not understand the times and the seasons. She was not a Daniel. She was not a bible scholar. She was not even a Christian. All she knew was that her daughter was sick. Therefore, she came and asked for the right thing but at the wrong time. She asked for the healing of a Gentile when it was still the time of the Jews. She came to ask the Lord for food when the children of the kingdom had yet to eat. Jesus told her to wait. “Let the children finish eating first.” But love does not wait. Her daughter jumped the queue and was healed.
Jesus tried to explain God’s love to hate-filled Jews. He asked them: “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26). The love of God says David’s “illegal” act was excusable because he was in need and hungry. God responded to David not legally, but lovingly. The mercy of God rejoiced over the judgment of God in David’s case. But do we react the same way today as Christians?
Ambulances drive “illegally” on the wrong side of the road because they respond to emergencies. If we insist that they keep to road safety rules, it can only be because the love of God is not in us. Similarly, if we insist that people must wear certain types of clothing before they can come to church, then the love of God is not in us. If keeping rules and regulations is more important to us than loving our neighbour, it is because we do not yet understand the love of God.
Loving our neighbour is more important than doing our duty. The widow of Zarephath gave her last meal to the prophet and God blessed her. Rahab lied to preserve the lives of the Hebrew spies in Jericho and God honoured her. These examples showed love in action. But it is significant that these expressions of love did not come from Jews. They came from those outside of the church. They came from those who were not bound by religion. They came from those who did not know the right thing to do but who understood the love thing to do.
Is it legal to drive on the wrong side of the road? Why do you drive on the right side of the road? Do you pay tithes because it is the right thing to do? Do you give offerings because it is the right thing to do? A true believer does not do things merely because it is right or legal. A true believer does things because it is the love thing to do. The only valid reason acceptable in God for doing anything is the love of God. Jesus says: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). In which case the only reason why he wants us to keep his commandments is because we love him. And the only commandment Jesus has given us is that we love God and love our neighbour as he loves us.
So we must not allow any bad shepherd (or pastor) to intimidate us into paying tithes by telling us we would be cursed if we do not do so. We are not to do things because we are afraid of curses, or fear the windows of heaven will be shut against us. All our actions must arise from the love of God and the love of our neighbours.
The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him: “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?” The question itself is based on wrong premises. God is not legalistic. The kingdom of God is not a legalistic kingdom. It is a loving kingdom. Who cares whether it is legal or not! If it is legal for people to kill Jews, should we do so because it is the legal thing to do?
The question should have been: “Is it loving for a man to divorce his wife?” “Does the divorce of one’s wife show the love of God?” Couched in this manner, the question would have been unnecessary. Clearly, divorce does not show love but hate. God hates adultery not because it is illegal, but because it is about hatred. Adultery represents hatred and disregard for one’s spouse.
Let me tell you a parable. When Nabal married Abigail, he gave her a list of do’s and don’ts. It was so extensive, it was impossible to fulfil. No matter how hard she tried, he would always find fault that she forgot to do something, or forgot to say something, or did something in a way different from the exact way he wanted it done. He wanted his rice cooked in a particular way. His meat had to be boiled in a particular way. His shirt must be ironed in one way or you won’t hear the last of it.
Thank God, Nabal died prematurely. Thereafter, Abigail became David’s wife. After the marriage, she dutifully asked David for his own list of do’s and don’ts. But David said he had none. “I just love you,” he said. “There are no laws, no rules, no regulations, and no guidelines. Just love.”
Of such is the kingdom of God.