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The Song of Solomon contains this graphic description of love:
“Love is strong as death: passion as unyielding as Sheol; its burnings are like the burning of fire, the flame of Yahweh! Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. (Even) if a man were giving all the riches of his house for love, it would (still) be condemned as beneath contempt!” (Song 8:6-7)
And the apostle Paul, in his famous chapter on love, says that it…
“bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1Cor 13:7-8)
Yet, for all its strength and powers of endurance, love has an intrinsic weakness: it cannot compel; for love, to be love at all, must be a voluntary choice.
A massive disadvantage
This places anyone who chooses the way of love at a massive disadvantage.
I am reminded of the story of a billboard proclaiming the text, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Underneath it some wag had written, “Er … if that’s OK with you guys.”
The reality is that those bent on self-interest will use whatever means they can to get their way – and the more power they can wield, the more they are likely to succeed.
In the long run, maybe – but is it enough?
Most of us can see that love is the better way. And most of us harbour the hope that love will eventually triumph. Even the worst tyrannies seem ultimately to fall: but it’s a long road; many suffer and die along the way. And in the course of the struggle, how often do the would-be liberators become the next generation of oppressors?
To fight for love, without destroying it, is the hardest thing in the world. Indeed, to fight to defend one’s own right to receive love would seem like a contradiction in terms. Yet most of us would consider that one who fights, at risk of their own safety and comfort, to protect the right of others is displaying love in its highest form.
Step up, the Champion
That is why love needs a champion – one who is prepared to love and defend others at no matter what cost to himself. But that champion, to defend the weak, must be prepared to overpower the strong that insist on using their freedoms to exploit others. So how does he avoid the charge that he has become the new oppressor by denying the exploiters their freedom to choose?
Turn with me for a moment to the Book of Revelation, chapter 5:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
… I wept and wept because no-one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…
He came and took the scroll … And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. … And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:1-9, NIV, abbreviated)
The scroll in this scene represents the judgement of God against the wicked and the Lion that looks like a slaughtered lamb is Jesus. But why is He the only one worthy to implement this judgement?
Well firstly, and most obviously, because He gave up his own life so we could be forgiven and restored to a relationship with God – an act of pure love. And secondly because, having lived and suffered as a man himself, no-one can tell him, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”
But there’s another reason.
The Judge who is on your side
Think for a moment. If you were about to be hauled before the judge to answer for your crimes, would you not desperately hope that he would somehow take a liking for you and look for a way to acquit you? Jesus is the most perfect judge possible and our perfect champion because no-one else could ever be as eager to acquit you as he is.
Long before you ever cared about him (or others), he was loving you to the hilt, suffering in your place. Having done all that for you, do you suppose he is now indifferent to your fate? No! He is looking for one thing, and one thing only: the evidence that you have turned from your life of selfishness to a life that flows from the love he has poured into you.