Building Treasure in Heaven: What Love Looks Like

Jesus shows us love

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13, NLT)

It is fitting to end this series on Building Treasure in Heaven by reflecting on love, because as Paul beautifully puts it, love is the greatest of all the virtues. In fact, we can be bold and state that, ultimately, all the virtues are in support of love or are expressions of love. Love is at the heart of the Christian life for the simple fact that God is love and Jesus shows us what love looks like. If there is one virtue that we need to focus on, it is love.

What is Love?

There are two problems with the English word ‘love.’ First, we can love God, love our children, love coffee, love the sunset and love going fast. They don’t all mean the same thing! Second, in English, ‘love’ usually means a feeling, whereas in the Bible, ‘love’ means a feeling but ALSO a decision and a practice. One can practice love without feeling anything. This is important.

As Tim Mackie points out in his video on Biblical love, Jesus’ disciples didn’t consult a dictionary to find out the meaning of love; they looked at Jesus. They saw a man worried that the leaders of Israel were not protecting the people of Israel and drawing them to God. Jesus saw the people as ‘sheep without a shepherd,’ so he lived to show them what love looks like.

Christ washing the Feet of the Disciples by Jacopo Tintoretto, c. 1575-80 (The National Gallery)

The disciples watched Jesus spend three years reaching out to the people in need, completely bypassing the leadership. He healed people who were sick or worried about their loved ones. In many different ways, he taught them the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. He fed thousands of hungry people. Jesus continually reached out to people on the margins, bringing grace to the rejected: the lepers; people struggling with demons; tax collectors and prostitutes.

The Scandal of Love

Jesus’ care for people was deeply shocking to the religious establishment of his day. He taught the disciples about love with shocking actions. For instance, he got down on his knees like a slave to wash the dirt and filth of the day off of Peter’s feet. Peter couldn’t handle that, but Jesus invited him to look deeper: this is what love looks like. It reaches out and shows mercy, especially when the situation is messy and hard. Love reaches even to the people who hate us and whom we might hate. It is not necessarily a feeling. In fact, we might even be repelled by acts of hard love. But Jesus calls us to love anyway.

Love shows itself in action. To show mercy is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Why? Jesus helps us to understand when he gives us the great commandment: we are called to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. He doesn’t separate these, but makes them one piece. We love God by loving our neighbours, and love our neighbours because we love God.

We Know What Love Looks Like Because God First Loved Us

The New Testament teaches that our love for both God and neighbour is PRECEDED by God’s love for us. God’s love reaches out in Jesus Christ for healing and salvation. God comes to us. We don’t have to go to him. God crosses the great divide between us. In Romans 5:8, Paul writes, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And in 1 John 4:9, the apostle John reflects, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” And of course, John 3:16 reads, “God so loved the world that he send his only begotten Son…”

The point is that when we love, we are most like God. God shows love and mercy to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. That is who he is. At the heart of the universe is a heart beating with love, drawing all things to himself for the purpose of wholeness, healing and restoration. This is salvation. Love is both the greatest vision of all things, as well as the lowliest and simplest act of kindness. When we look at how God works and what God values, we see what love looks like.

Love binds everything together. It is the best way to understand what it means to Build Treasure in Heaven.

Living by Faith

Living by Fatih

As part of our series on Building Treasure in Heaven, we’re looking at living by faith, hope and love. This trio comes from one of the most famous passages in the Bible: St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. It concludes with this assurance: “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We read this chapter at many weddings because it captures the essence of what love is.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Why Are Faith and Hope Tied to Love?

Continue reading “Living by Faith”

What Does it Mean to Store Up Treasure in Heaven?

Building Treasure in Heaven

The one who has God for his treasure has all things in One.

A. W. Tozer

This series is about using Jesus’ image of building Treasure in Heaven to help us understand the life of Christian discipleship. The image of treasure focuses us on what is of central importance. It is also an image of desire. People will sacrifice much to find ‘hidden treasure.’ Before I continue in my series, I want to remind us what Jesus is telling us with this image of building Treasure in Heaven.

What does it mean to store up treasure in heaven? First, building treasure in heaven is NOT about getting points with God. It is NOT about impressing God. It is NOT about completing a religious checklist of dos and don’ts. Storing treasure in Heaven is NOT about God rewarding us with material wealth because we have done spiritual good in obedience. In fact, it is NOT about getting anything from God.

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Walk by Faith / Walk Humbly with Your God

Walk by Faith

Building Treasure in Heaven Series, Part 4

Over the past two articles in this series, we have been exploring an episode in Matthew 23:23. Jesus is challenging his religious opponents to step back and look beyond the fussy minutiae of religious law to see the bigger picture. What is it that God really expects in our daily actions as disciples? Jesus suggests there are three central virtues in the Christian life: justice, mercy and faith. Today, we look at our call to walk by faith.

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Building Treasure in Heaven: Love Mercy

Mercy comes directly from the heart and character of God

In our last reflection in this series, we looked at Justice as central to building up Treasure in Heaven. It is part of the triad of virtues — Justice, Mercy, and Faith — that Jesus highlights as ‘the weightier matters of the law’ by which we should be all be ‘weighing’ our actions (Matthew 23:23). Today, we are going to look at Mercy.

You cannot overstate the importance of mercy in both Jesus’ ministry and the Christian life. This is because mercy is central to the character of God. Pope Francis even wrote a book called The Name of God is Mercy. The most important thing about God may be God’s mercy. We will look at God’s mercy through two snapshots from Jesus’ life.

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Building Treasure in Heaven: Justice

God calls us to live with Justice.

According to Jesus, as we live into our discipleship, we are storing up Treasure in Heaven. In my previous article in this series, I reflected that Treasure is Jesus’ metaphor for what we value the most: what drives our lives and tells us what we want to be known for. Jesus tells us that we need to focus our life on the Kingdom of God.

Discerning What Is Most Important

So, what does that mean? We can begin to understand what Jesus is getting at by looking at a powerful criticism he levels against his spiritual opponents, the Scribes and Pharisees. He criticizes them for focusing on small things that might look like they are important, when in reality, they are missing the bigger picture. He says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23

Jesus is telling them (and us) that when we look at our actions, we need to be sure that everything we do is marked by ‘justice, mercy and faith.’ Here, Jesus is following a long tradition of Jewish discernment about what is most important about following the law of God.

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Building Treasure in Heaven: A New Series on Living for What is Most Important

Reflect on what is most important in this new series on Building Treasure in Heaven from the Hope Canteen blog

Did we miss the rest of the Lessons of the 20th Century Series? Not at all! Now that your hosts are back from vacation, we will be running both series together for some variety. You can use the categories to help you navigate between them.

Our desire here at the Hope Canteen is to serve up spiritual nourishment to help you grow in your life of faith. Our spiritual life is about answering the big questions and finding ways to live with integrity in light of them. As Christians, we believe that we have found those answers in Jesus Christ. But faith is only the beginning of our journey! Jesus calls us to follow him and be disciples.

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