50 Shades of Grey

Love. Do you ever think about it? I mean, really think about it? It can’t be quantified, so it can’t be explained. It can be partially described, but not completely. It’s both innate and foreign, selfless, invisible, intangible, demanding, rewarding, fulfilling, and yet sometimes it’s elusive, and sometimes it’s hard. When I was reading 1John a few days ago, I came across a verse that I’d never really dug into before, I’d read it and simply carried on but this time I paused and gave it some actual thought (!)

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.’

That last phrase struck me as a commandment, as it never had before, and I remembered that some translations have it as ‘Now abide in my love.’

That translation seems to say so much more! The word ‘abide’ brings with it a sense of something encompassing, a sense of home and belonging, even of continuance, which is why there is no past tense to the word – we don’t say ‘Fred abided in the house’ because the word just doesn’t lend itself to that tense. ‘To abide’ means to make a home, to continue to thrive there. So Jesus has commanded us to abide in his love…. what a great commandment that is! To live in the greatest love of all, be surrounded by it, nourished by it, not popping in from time to time when the mood takes us, but to make our permanent home in it. The medium in which we exist.

How amazing. And, if Jesus tells us to do something, we know that with His help it’s achievable. We really can make his love our natural home. The strongest prayer I know is all about that, and I say it every day, thinking of friends and neighbours, bringing them into focus;

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

‘Rooted and established in love’. That’s as strong as the commandment to abide, isn’t it ? What a great joy, to live in love. I think that when I’m not aware of a deep inner joy it’s a sign that I’m not living in God’s love. That something may have slipped a bit sideways. Like it does. That I need to step back into that abiding.

Last weekend it was my husband’s birthday and that chimed with my thoughts about love; He grew up in a dour Scottish Presbyterian family and wasn’t at all used to celebrating birthdays. When he woke up, I would have his gifts wrapped and waiting and of course there would be his favourite food, and silly decorations and anything else I could think of, and although he was a bit stunned for the first couple of years, he was also delighted. He came to enjoy them almost as much as I do, and it was good to remember him on his birthday, and to thank God for him, and for the gift of love. He was a smashing bloke.

Human love is wonderful, amazing, miraculous, and invaluable, but it’s pale and sickly compared to the love of God, shown from the beginning of time, and all through the Old Testament

‘Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’

Isaiah 54:10

all the way through to the fulfilment of the New Testament

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
John 3:16

But God is God and I am shabby old me, and you are shabby old you, and we are tiny specks in the vastness of unmeasured space. Here today and gone tomorrow. So why does God love us? Here’s the thing. He loves us because he is love. And because he therefore made us lovable, that’s why! Yeah, yeah, I know that we are all unworthy and wretched and all that stuff too – goodness we hear about that side of things often enough, don’t we? What wretches we all are! But listen! We are also and undeniably bloomin’ fantastic, all made with delight and joy and love and attention to detail… each one of us the work of the supreme Craftsman. We are all wonderful because we are all wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139) and that’s of no credit at all to us! The most beautiful painting in the world didn’t make itself beautiful, it was the artist who created that beauty. We are wonderful not because of ourselves but because of Him who created us. He gave us the gift of being loved and of being able to love. What a supreme gift that is! Over and over again in every human being, every new born baby and every centenarian, loveable humanity.

Take George for example; He was easy to love with his blue eyes, his lovely accent, his sense of humour, his strength and stubbornness, that annoying snort when he laughed, the gulp and swallow as he fought tears, his terrible dress sense.. oh, listen, his terrible dress sense! The day our daughter was born and I wasn’t home to give him the once-over before he left the house, he turned up at the hospital in checked trousers, a striped shirt, a different checked jacket and a contrasting tie. He told me, puzzled, that several people at work had said “Hi George, didn’t know it was fancy dress today.” But God loved him, and he loved God. And I loved him. What a gift he was to me. *

George has been gone for many years, but time is nothing. It’s less than a sigh, less than a heart beat, less than the blink of an eye. George is alive, in glory, with the God who loves him. Do I believe that one day we’ll be together again, delighted to recognise each other? You know, I don’t. I really don’t. Because I think that when we are in glory we will be completely and ecstatically captivated by the love that knows no boundaries, that reaches out to embrace all humanity, all souls, to encompass all truth. He will be there and I will be there and that will be enough because God will be there.

In eternal life, there will be everything and only. Everything and only God. Jesus said, in prayer, in the days leading up to his crucifixion ‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’

That’s such an insight into eternity. Let me add some bold font this is eternal life; that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ This is eternal life: Eternal life is knowing Jesus. If we know Jesus we are in eternal life, we have it, we are part of it.

What is eternal life? Simple. Eternal life is knowing God.

Isn’t that something to shout about from the rooftops? For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Now, that’s what I call love.

*In George’s defence, the whole outfit was, as he said indignantly “All in the same colour – grey.”
Yep. Light grey with small blue checks, bluey grey with darker larger blue checks, a grey satin tie with red stripes, a grey shirt with white pinstripes. But yes, George, not quite 50 shades and all basically ‘grey’.

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