We’ve seen in this series that love is a costly, sacrificial matter, but if all that we are left with is that which is costly and sacrificial, not many of us would be drawn to or endure long at loving God and others. Love, however, is not only “an esteeming affection” and “a beneficial/sacrificial action”, it is also “a drawing/unifying effect.” It is the attractive nature and unifying power of love that is its sweetest fruit, its greatest treasure, and its richest reward. When it comes to loving God according to the costly dictates of the “first commandment” (Mark 12:30) then, the glorious outcome is that it leads us ever deeper into a more perfect union with God in the totality of our being: spirit, heart, soul, mind, and strength! That is our glorious hope and our highest joy!
As we conclude this series on the “love”-“hate” relationship, I’d like to focus on this final crowning aspect of the drawing/unifying effect of love by exploring it, along some of the other major aspects of this teaching, as they ultimately ground out and are epitomized in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
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There is no greater place that the dynamics of the “love”-“hate” relationship can be seen than in the cross of Jesus Christ.
On the one hand, the cross is the supreme expression of costly, sacrificial “love.” It is there that God manifested the immeasurable height, depth, width, and breadth of His esteeming affection toward us and where He “fleshed out” the most magnanimous beneficial/sacrificial action He could conceive of in the death of His Son for our salvation. It is, likewise, the place where the strongest drawing/unifying effect of His love is most intensely concentrated and effectually encountered. Furthermore, the cross is the wellspring of our love for Him as it is the place where He first loved us with all of His heart, with all of His soul, with all of His mind, with all of His strength, and first loved us (His “neighbor”) as Himself! It is through the cross that God demonstrated to all of creation that He is the supreme “Friend of (our) friend” and “Enemy of (our) enemy”, thereby showing Himself to be our consummate “FRIEND”!
On the other hand, the cross is the supreme expression of “hate.” On the cross God manifested His holy and righteous “hatred” of all that which opposes, threatens, and violates that which He “loves” as He poured out His wrath upon the undeserving Lamb of God, the sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world. On the cross, Jesus Christ bore all of the separation and rejection (“hate”) due to the enemies of God as sin, Satan, and the fallen world system were righteously judged. In contrast, it is also the place where the unholy, unrighteous “hatred” of Satan and sinful man towards God was fully manifested as the most heinous and maniacal forms of torture and suffering were perpetrated on the One whose incarnational Light posed the perfect existential and actual threat to those who “loved” the darkness.
As we consider the immensity and the intensity of the cost and sacrifice incurred by the Son of God on the cross, as perfect “love” and perfect “hate” collided in that awful, glorious place, we should consider that Jesus did not embrace and endure the cross without a joyful hope awaiting Him on the other side. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)
As staggering as the unspeakable sufferings of Christ were upon the cross, we ought to be even more staggered by the unspeakable “joy” that was set before Him. That “joy” was sufficient enough, in measure and magnitude, to enable Jesus at the time of His greatest anguish, pain and, weakness, to victoriously overcome the sufferings of the cross and despise its shame. In order for it to have such an overcoming effect, it had to have been to Him an even greater positive reality in that moment than the combined negative realities of the suffering, shame, and death of the cross that He endured. Such an excelling “joy” is staggering to contemplate in the light of such a magnitude of unspeakable opposites to overcome. We are compelled to ask, then, what exactly was it that comprised Christ’s joyous hope as He faced, fought through, and overcame the excruciating terrors, torments, and traumas of the cross?!
Although it was surely multi-faceted, the highest and most essential aspect of that “joy” was surely the fruit, the treasure, and the reward of love: perfect unity and oneness with that which is loved. On the other side of that cross for Christ lay not only eternal union and glory with the Father at His sovereign right hand, but also “the day of his wedding, The day of the gladness of his heart.” (Song of Songs 3:11 NKJV) The anticipation of unity and oneness with His Beloved Bride enabled the Son of Man to endure the suffering and shame of the cross knowing that as His Father put Him into the “deep sleep” (Genesis 2:21) of death, from His own flesh, bone, and blood, His eternal Companion, the Church, would be fashioned and brought forth. In and by this exceedingly joyous hope He triumphed!!
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The cross lies at the very center of God’s love for us, but it also lies at the very center of our love for God. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.“ (Luke 9:23 ESV) Years ago in Bible School, one of my teachers shared his perspective on what it means to take up our cross daily. He said in essence, “Our cross represents whatever it costs us to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” He went on to say that that is what it meant for Jesus, and that is what it means for us as well. Although I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way before or since, I’d say he was profoundly touching on the wisdom and truth of God concerning the cross.
The reality is that our daily cross is irrevocably bound up with the same three aspects that the cross of Christ is bound up with: costly, sacrificial “love”, holy and righteous “hate”, and exceedingly joyful hope.
Costly/sacrificial “love” – Although we’ve spent a considerable a amount of time talking about this aspect of loving God in the last two posts (please see here and here), there is one truth that needs to be strongly emphasized at this point. And that truth is simply this: the cross and our “cross bearing” should always and only be understood as those which have “love” as their primary motivation, supreme essence, and ultimate objective. Any concept of the cross that does not, first and foremost, comprehend it as an expression of costly, sacrificial love is a false concept of the cross. Likewise, any concept of cross bearing that does not, first and foremost, comprehend it as an expression of costly, sacrificial love is a false concept of cross bearing! We often think of the first aspect in this regard, but do we often think of the second in this way as well?
It seems that usually our first thoughts of cross bearing are that it represents personal sacrifice, suffering, and/or death to self. Those are certainly important, inherent aspects, but before we ever get to the sacrifice/suffering/death aspects of cross bearing, we have to understand that what undergirds, embodies, and prevails through the cross is all a matter of love. Divine love does indeed manifest itself as a sacrificial, suffering, death-dealing “cross” but that is because it ends up causing rival loves within the human heart (to the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor) to be sacrificed, suffer, and, ultimately, be put to “death”. Those rival loves invariably find their root in the love of self, and so God’s love, when it takes ascendancy within the heart, becomes a radical instrument of sacrifice, suffering, and death to the rival love of self. Undergirding all of this, however, is Divine Love.
In its deepest and truest sense, then, taking up our cross daily means our taking up of love daily…costly, sacrificial love! We must lay aside all concepts of cross bearing, then, that are not deeply grounded in radical love for God and others! This is its first and foremost meaning!
Holy and righteous “hate” – We’ve learned in this series that “hate” is actually generated by the protective nature of “love”, for we “hate” that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what we “love.” We’ve also seen that the Biblical concept of “hate” (Hebrew = “sane”, prononced “saw-nay”) is primarily one of rejection and separation. (See Part 2 for more on these aspects.)
Since both the cross and cross bearing are fully grounded in love, we can rightly assume that they each generate a rejection/separation response (“hate”) to all that opposes, threatens, and/or violates what is loved. In other words, both the cross and cross bearing carry with them a secondary aspect of “hate” that is as inherent as the primary aspect of “love.” (This is why the cross of Christ is as inherently a place of the love of God as it is a place of the wrath of God.)
This intrinsic, yet opposite, relationship between “love” and “hate” can also be seen in a “directional” sense. Love has a direction of moving toward that which is loved, i.e a drawing/unifying effect, while “hate” has a direction of moving away from that which is hated, i.e. a rejection/separation response.
In the natural, if an object stands between two others, as soon as it begins to move closer to one, it automatically and proportionally moves further away from the other. This is true morally and spiritually as well as “love” draws in one direction, but “hate” separates in the opposite direction in relation to its moral and/or spiritual counterpart.
We cannot move closer to God in “love”, then, without also moving further away in “hate” from that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what is loved by God and what He commands us to love. This is the essence of repentance, which is not only a radical turning towards God but also a radical turning away from sin and evil. For this reason Scripture makes statements such as, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10 NKJV), and also, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 NIV)
If we are to daily take up our cross, then, we must not only daily take up costly, sacrificial “love” for God and our neighbor, but also daily take up holy and righteous “hate” toward that which opposes, threatens, and violates what God loves and commands us to love. In other words, we are not only to radically “love” God and others, but also radically “hate” sin and evil. In fact, the degree to which we have the secondary “hate” dynamic at work in our heart is a good barometer of just how much we actually have of the primary “love” dynamic at work in our heart from which it proportionally derives!
This secondary aspect of “hate”, in addition to the primary one of “love”, then, represent the costly, sacrificial aspects of “love” as embodied in the daily taking up of our cross. But just as Jesus did not endure the costly, sacrificial aspects of His cross without an exceedingly joyful hope set before Him, so we are not called to endure the costly, sacrificial aspects of “our cross” without an exceedingly joyful hope set before us!
Exceedingly joyful hope – The sweetest fruit, the greatest treasure, and the richest reward of love is its attractive nature and unifying power, or as we’ve called it throughout this series, its drawing/unifying effect. There is an end toward which love is constantly pressing, pushing, pulling, and progressing. That end is perfect unity and oneness between those who are drawn together and bound by love. The love of God toward us and within us will not relent until it has fully and finally obtained its glorious end.
Because of Love, you and I have a hope and a joy laid up for us that is incomprehensible to us now. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT ) Of all that our future glory and eternal gladness may include, the highest, deepest, widest, and most sustaining realities of that joy will spring simply from the perfect unity and oneness we will have with the Triune God Himself. In that endless Day, we will forever intimately know the unspeakable pleasures of perfect union with the One who is the fullness and perfection of all love, joy, peace, wisdom, power, authority, holiness, beauty, riches, pleasure, patience, kindness, grace, and glory. This, above all else, is our exceedingly joyful hope!
Since this is the end toward which Divine Love is unrelentingly moving, we might ask what means, if any, does God use in conjunction with or as instruments of His Love to bring about that end. Generally speaking, there are two necessary dynamics required to bring about perfect unity and oneness. The first is to supply the necessary unifying forces and factors that draw and hold the elements of a whole together as one. The second is to remove all disintegrating forces and factors that divide and separate elements of a whole until all that remains are unifying forces and factors. Thus, the first is additive and the second is subtractive. The primary means that God employs to engage and empower both of these dynamics in relationship with man is “the cross.” He employs it perfectly on His side of the relationship, and seeks to employ it increasingly unto perfection on our side as well.
The cross is sufficient to enable and to enact both of these dynamics simultaneously because of its “love”-“hate” nature. When we personally take up our “cross”, we, first and foremost, embrace the radical “love” of God, which supplies “the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14 NAS) in our relationship with God and others. Second and subsequently, we, further embrace the radical “hate” of God that causes us to reject and separate out all that opposes, threatens, and violates the perfect unity and oneness that God loves (i.e. all “sin.”) Thus in the cross, “love” is additive and “hate” is subtractive. The cross, therefore, supplies the perfect unifying force and factor, (“love”), and removes all disintegrative forces and factors (“sin”) working “double duty” to create perfect unity and oneness in our relationship with God and others.
In conclusion, then, I’d like to bring this back full circle to my teacher’s definition of what it means for us to “take up (our) cross daily.” To reiterate, he said, “Our cross represents whatever it costs us to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” So we see that by embracing the costly, sacrificial aspects of love for God and others we are, in effect, taking up our cross which is the very means that God uses to bring us into perfect unity and oneness with Himself and others. As we take up our cross daily, then, we can do so with an exceedingly joyous hope comparable to that which the Lord Jesus had as He took up His cross, overcame, and sat down at the Father’s right hand where He longingly awaits eternal union with His glorious Bride!
May such a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) be that which draws and compels us to become the kind of radical lovers that our Heavenly Bridegroom is and that He has called us, His Beloved Bride, to be as He draws us unrelentingly into perfect union and communion with Himself!
“Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.” “We will rejoice in you and be glad; We will extol your love more than wine.”
(Song of Songs 1:4 NAS)
This now concludes this series. If you haven’t had a chance to read the earlier posts, I strongly encourage you to do so. This has been, dare I say, one of the most important and ground-breaking series on this blog. I believe it unveils some very fundamental and essential keys that literally unlock most of life, be it personal, interpersonal, or spiritual. (As lengthy as this series has been too, I still feel as if it has only begun to scratch the surface of these profoundly simple/simply profound truths!) I pray that you are blessed as you read these posts and that the Holy Spirit gives you insight into all of these matters! All blessings in Christ! -David
Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch”, Part 5: “Speaking the ‘Love’ in Truth”, Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (Esteeming Affection), Part 6b: Loving God With All of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action), Part 6c: Loving God With All Of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action cont.)