Unrestrained Madness of Love
1Th. 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Paul’s intimate prayer for the Thessalonians gives us a glimpse into the heart of this leader. Prayer is a regular part of his life, so much so that it becomes a part of his letter writing. It seems to simply flow from who he is!
The prayer provides us with insight into what he sees as the priority for the lives of Christ followers. Knowing the love of Christ is foremost. It is in the intimacy of the relationship with Christ that we become partakers of that divine nature — holy love. This holy love is to so fill our very being that it overflows — and “abounds.” Paul’s love for his disciples was overflowing to the point that he was willing to suffer persecution on their behalf. Loving God, and loving others — should be the marker of their lives. Chrysostom calls it the “unrestrained madness of love.”
This love is connected to holiness because it is the holy love of God, of which we partake, that overwhelms our being so that we may be strengthened in holiness. This is not an outward form of holiness but it is a holiness that springs from the interior of our very being because of the holy love of God which fills us. This holiness is not optional for Christ-followers, but is God’s intent — for us to be his holy people. It is God's holy people who will be able to stand before him, blameless when he comes again with all of his holy people.
Over and over again we are reminded that it is God’s holy love which sanctifies us as his holy people. It is not something that happens from the outside - in. We cannot make ourselves holy by our own actions or behaviors for we are powerless to do so. To try and do so only leads to frustration because this happens without power. Yes, I can try to avoid those behaviors, or try to live my life differently, but without the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of me this will all become a futile attempt.
I’m afraid that far too often there are individuals who encounter Christianity and are excited about what it means to be plugged into a personal relationship with Christ but the Christian community, instead of taking time to disciple individuals, helping them to know the incredibly powerful support which comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit, tries to push them into a particular mold. John Wesley took great amounts of time to disciple the new converts to Methodism. They met on a regular basis for accountability and intense amounts of time were spent in prayer and study. It was during these times that people would wrestle with what the Lord was doing in their lives — from the inside out. It was during these times that the Lord was forming them and shaping them into his holy people. They took the world by storm because they abounded in love and England in the 18th century was transformed.
Knowing Christ and his holy love is the call of every believer. This unrestrained madness of love is world changing. May Paul’s prayer be our prayer today, both for ourselves and for those who are growing in Christ around us.
Lord, please help me to know you and the depths of your love today. May your love abound in your followers. Amen.