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January 25, 2008

Calvary Love

One of the most challenging little books I have in my library is Amy Carmichael's If. Carmichael recounts a sleepless night when she was driven to ask herself whether she truly loved others as Christ has loved us. The result is a series of statements which prick my conscience and spur me to greater love for others. Here are a few excerpts:

"If I have not compassion on my fellow servant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden,  then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, 'You do not understand,' or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have 'a heart at leisure from itself,' then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If monotony tries me, and I cannot stand drudgery; if stupid people fret me and little ruffles set me on edge; if I make much of the trifles of life, then I know nothing of Calvary love." 

"If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

The book is filled with such gems, and they never fail to make me see my day-to-day walk with the Lord in light of the impossibly high standards He has set for us. Thankfully, He also provides the means of achieving our goal of being more like Him: by His example, His Word, and the Holy Spirit, we are able to know and show Calvary love. 

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Mike Perry

Unfortunately, some of the behaviors she regards as serious failings and even sins, were prominent characteristics of Jesus during his ministry, especially:

"If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

Remember "woe unto you," "the blind leading the blind," and many other critical remarks by Jesus? Those remarks were so numerous, they crucified him for them. And those remarks are as much a model for believers as turning the other cheek at personal slights.

What she's describing isn't Christianity. It's an unhappy and spiritually unhealthy flight from reality and a denial that evil exists in this world that needs to be harshly criticized and ridiculed. It's not even remotely biblical. Indeed, it's difficult to think of a single person in the Bible of any spiritual importance who behaves that way.

It's a sad sort of pietism that, rather glorifying the self, denigrates it. But self-glorification or self-denigration is still self-obsession. Much better to be so focused on others we forget ourselves, criticizing those who do evil, however powerful they are, and praising those who do good, however unimportant they may seem in the eyes of the world.

I often remind myself that a lot of things Christians categorize as do's and don't are really context sensitive, things to be done in one situation but not another. There are times when we should let criticism slide off our backs and times when we must defend our reputation. There are times to speak out, however harshly, and times to be silent. These sorts of 'always rules' about 'sometimes things' do no one any good, they merely confuse and create unnecessary guilt.

It often amazes me how some people can regard as spiritual ideas that are so far from both the teaching and example of Scripture. What were they thinking? Were they even thinking at all? It makes no sense.

Gina Dalfonzo

Mike, I think you're missing the contextual meanings of such words as "easily," "casual," "enjoy," "expense," and "slight."

I think a careful reading shows that the passages are meant to be understood something like this: "If I find it easy to gossip about, make fun of, or be rude to people . . ." It's not an injunction to ignore evil, it's an injunction to treat others with the respect that God requires for all of those created in His image.

Diane Singer

Mike, I agree with Gina, but I would add one more thought. To accuse someone like Amy Carmichael of a "sad sort of pietism" or to claim that she engaged in a "spiritually unhealthy flight from reality" is simply wrong. You DO know, don't you, that she spent more than 50 years as a missionary in India, largely rescuing girls from being sold into slavery as temple prostitutes? This was a woman who lived out her faith in the face of incredible hostility and danger. If you are unfamiliar with her work, you should pick up a copy of Elizabeth Eliott's wonderful biography, A Chance to Die.


Dear Mike,

Have you ever heard some in the body, speaking of someone not present with them in a not so kind way? The things you pointed out that Jesus said, He said to the faces of those he was criticizing. It was their heart condition and that of their so-called peity that was only a call to bondage on those they were to be leading TO God.

Amy is addressing our personal love walk with each other as a result of our intimate Love walk with HIM.

I have had many a people come to me to "tell me" things about others so "I could pray" Mary Crowley, who is now with the Lord, but founded Home Interiors, is quoted as saying, "gossip is the sharing of negative information with someone who is neither part of the problem or the solution." Jesus told us the world would know that we are HIS disciples by the love we have for one ANOTHER.

Does that mean I like every single person I meet in church? No! But I do have a duty to love them, think the best of them, speak life over them, and not words of death and criticism.

How easy it is to tell the wrong someone has done us, or point out their rotten attitude. How much harder to love that person and pray for them and keep our mouth shut!

To be hevaenly minded does the earth and all those around us a whole lot of good!

Paul by unction of the Holy Spirit, said that all of creation groans for the sons of God to be manifested. That doesn't sound like a flight from reality to me! It is a challenge to come up higher and be more Christ Like in my day to day actions and responses. It is a call to lay self and selfishness and my own agenda aside for the common good of the Kingdom. It is to not jsut care for my own things, but also that of others, as Paul admonished the Philippians 2: 1.If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
2.then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
3.Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4.Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5.Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6.Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7.but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant...

This I think, (notice I said THINK- I was not there to ask her what was in her mind and heart when she wrote it)is what Amy was trying to put across to us in common scenarios.

Just something to think about bro!

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