REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of April 4, 2021
Love Christ Above All Else: 2 Cor. 5:14
We are in Week 9 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week of Easter Sunday, it is especially apropos that we continue our journey down this ancient path by examining Rule 4.21: Love Christ above all else. But what does it mean to love Christ above all else? What does such love look like in our lives? How does such love impact our relationship with God and others?
I think the first key to understanding this rule is found in Eph. 3:14-20. This passage is the second of two prayers that Paul prays over believers in this epistle. Paul’s first prayer focuses on enlightenment. This prayer is focused on empowerment. Paul first prays that believers will understand or comprehend what they have in Christ. But this prayer takes it a step further. In this prayer Paul is praying that believers will apprehend the love they have in Christ. What’s the difference? When we apprehend something, we don’t just understand it, we make it our own. Paul is praying that believers will truly make the love of Christ their own and be rooted and established in love. Fully grasping Christ’s love for us sets the foundation for our love of God and others.
The next key is found in 1 Jn. 4:19. In this verse we discover that our ability to love God is rooted in his love for us. As we grow in our understanding of and claiming of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, our capacity to love Christ grows. And as the verses that follow reveal, as our capacity to love Christ increases, this love transforms our lives and our relationship with God and others. It increases our capacity to love. That is why it is imperative to love Christ above all else. It is not that God is calling us to stop loving our families and friends. Quite the contrary. God wants us to love them more! But God understands that so long as Christ is not the center of our love, our capacity to love is limited. Love that is not centered in Jesus is at its core selfish and idolatrous. It is a love that is conditional. It is a love that craves the attention and affirmation of the one being loved. And it is a love that will always disappoint because it is seeking the satisfaction that only the love of God can provide.
However, when we love Christ above all else, that longing we have deep in our hearts is finally satisfied. We are freed from seeking the love and affirmation of our family and friends because we have all the love and affirmation we need in Jesus Christ. We are finally freed to love others unconditionally because we have finally found the love we so desperately crave in Jesus. It is this love that allowed Paul to find contentment in every circumstance because his contentment was found in Christ (Phil. 4:10-13). And it is this love that controlled Paul’s life, driving him onward in his ministry of reconciling the lost to God (2 Cor. 5:14). Love that transforms the world starts with loving Jesus Christ above all else.
- Think through the difference between comprehension and apprehension as discussed above. Where do you fall? Have you fully grasped the love of God for you?
- If you believe that you have fully grasped the love of God for you, how has that manifested itself in your life? How about in your relationships with others?
- Would you say that you love Christ above all else? Why or why not? What are the things besides God that you require in order to be content?