Law of Love: The Medium of Praise and Penance – October 28

praise    “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I have two vivid recollections of two different men and the giving of flowers. One was a guy only seen when he had been awful to his girlfriend. He would have to call up her roommate in order to find out what their dorm room was. His call was ALWAYS followed by a delivery of flowers. I might mention, she had lived in that room for school all 4 years of college and he had to call each time. Ironically, the only times he sent flowers were when he did not send them, or anything else, to celebrate special occasions. Her birthday, their anniversary, Valentine’s Day all went by without acknowledgement. The second man was my father. He would regularly, as in once a month or more often, go to the florist shop and buy a dozen Sweetheart roses. They were $10 a dozen and it was a good deal. I never saw my father give her roses for any special occasion. He just brought them because he loved her.

The Book of Leviticus is known as the least favorite, least read, most referenced, and perhaps the most proof-texted book in the Bible. It is a book of laws, inspired by God, for the Nation of Israel. It gets a bad rap because we don’t hesitate to set boundaries and rules for our children or even our own lives, but believe that the Levitical Code is restrictive and legalistic. It was written for a nation that had been in slavery for generations. Their lives had been dictated by a foreign nation by the Pharaoh, God of all Egypt. If God’s people were to be His people, they needed to know HOW to be His people, live lives pleasing to Him and in ways that were beneficial to each other. It is a book of Love. It teaches how to love God and how to love each other. Leviticus 1:1-9 and 5:1-10, are two passages that teach just that.

The first of these passages instructs the people to make a sacrifice in the form of a young bull, free of defect, the best one possesses, and prepare it as a food offering, pleasing to the LORD. The second passage defines how one makes a sin offering upon realization that one has sinned. The animal is different, but ultimately the preparation is similar. One sacrifice is made personally, and the other is made through the priest.

We often look at seeking forgiveness as our main medium for restoring a relationship. Sadly, the relationship we have is altered, not by the offended, but by the offender. While God may forgive and restore us immediately when we humbly come to the altar, our human relationships are not as easily repaired. The truth is that we often have the same motive for asking forgiveness whether it be from God or a close relationship. We want to be free of any obligation, not that we are actually sorry for our actions or attitudes. Scripture teaches that man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart. If we offend or sin against our loved ones, friends, or coworkers, our heart can quickly be discerned by our actions immediately following our seeking forgiveness, the fruit of repentance. Many look at worship or confession as a way to “get off the hook”, but if we are not repentant, the sin remains and it is evident the next time we act in the same way. Repentance is truly turning away from our sin and seeking to restore the relationship with a humble heart, a heart that knows it does not deserve forgiveness and is seeking it in desperation, not expectation.

When we live our lives as pleasing to God, we often find that our lives are both pleasing to others as well as ourselves. When we live our lives as a free for all, and only make sacrifices when we are in trouble, not only is it far more costly, but it is also far less enjoyable to anyone, even ourselves. The meaning of “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is not that we are loved so we don’t have to express sorrow for erring. The true meaning is that because when we are living lives of love, we have nothing to apologize for. When we strive toward perfection, being perfected in love, we are not only able to achieve that, but every other part of our lives can fall into place, and our offering to God is fragrant and sweet to Him.

Do I only express love to gain forgiveness, or am I a living sacrifice of love?

You say you want a living sacrifice
Well I am a burnt offering
Crawling off the alter and
Back in to the fire
And with my smoke-filled lungs
I cry out for freedom
While locking and chaining myself
To my rotting desires

And I hate the stench
But I swallow the key
And with it stuck in my throat
Can you hear me?
Can you hear me?

I’m comin’ home, I’m comin’ home
I’m comin’ home, I’m comin’ home
But I’m still a long way off

I am shelled-shocked, and I have walked
Through the trenches full of tears
With the mortars of memory
Exploding in my burning ears

You stripped the trees of Lebanon
And now you’re stripping me
Of the bark of false morality
And the bite of selfish greed
Lord, can you hear me?

I’m comin’ home, I’m comin’ home
But I’m still a long way off

Will you run to me?
Will you come to me?
Will you meet me?
Will you greet me?
Will you drag me?
‘Cause I’m still a long way off

I’m comin’ home, I’m comin’ home
I’m comin’ home, I’m comin’ home



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