Only through transparent love does it grow and mature. To love fully and freely, love must be honest. Most of us struggle to overcome our tendency to hide. We hide our thoughts, our emotions, our failures, our differences, our unacceptable-ness. In hiding we deceive ourselves, robbing us from the blessings love offers.
“What a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Love is Blind
An old adage says, “Love is blind.” Saul on his way to Damascus to murder and imprison Christians perhaps literally experienced this quote. As he neared Damascus, “a light from heaven flashed around him.” The light was immediately followed by God’s voice questioning his objectives.
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.”
In asking the question, he declared the answer. The Lord he thought he knew was not this Lord. Here was love, he had never experienced before. When he picked himself off the ground and “opened his eyes he could see nothing.” Saul once driven by religious passion became blinded by love — unconditional, indisputable, undefinable love. Love so pure that darkness had no place.
For three days Saul fasted and prayed. Everything in his life changed from that moment of encounter forward. Everything except one thing.
By the time that we meet Paul in the Book of Romans, he has undergone a name change, a vision change, a mission change, a radical life change. Years have passed and the implications within Paul’s life since encountering Jesus Christ on the Damascus road stretched broad and wide. His conversion undeniable. His transformation unquestionable. Yet, he testifies to the Roman church, not in self-abasement, but in raw honesty.
“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
but I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law
of sin at work within me.
What a wretched man I am!”
What freed Paul to be so honest? What released him to such transparent love?
Most of us are confronted with our misdemeanors before such confession — our breaches of conduct exposed, our sin and failure made public. Not this man! Paul was different.
John, the disciple Jesus loved, penned these words,
“There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 5:18
Here lies the heart of our issue, our stumbling block to transparent love. We’ve learned early that honesty brings punishment, reprimand, perhaps rejection and shunning, often unforgiveness and broken relationships. So we live among those we are supposed to love, and who are called to love us, with fear. Fear denies love the freedom to thrive and grow.
Yet, Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ, his relationship with the God who by His very nature is love, so grounded him to boldly and honestly acknowledge his greatest weaknesses even among His enemies.
He laid out his true condition before those who could do him the most harm, the church. Yikes! If ever there is a critical bunch, they can be found sitting in the pews, praying in the prayer rooms, and sharing communion at the altar. Unfortunate, but sadly true. The places where love should most abound at times is lacking. Lacking in me most of all!
Yet, here more than any other place authentic, transparent honesty finds hope, help and healthy relationship.
Though some would like to climb on the pedestal marked human perfection, there was only One who could hold that rightful place. His sinless life was enough to redeem us all.
For the rest of us, we are in process like Paul — trying our best, longing with all our heart not to sin and let others down, and repenting often.
If there is one verse I take great comfort in, it is this one,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10
I haven’t reached the fullness of God’s intention for my life and fall far short of it most days, but I’m not the person I used to be — the broken one, the despised and rejected one, the unloved one. By God’s grace alone, He has called me by name and chosen me as His daughter. He loves me even though I’m undeserving.
As a matter of fact,
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul wrote both of these passages. He called himself the least of the apostles, unworthy of that designation. In another place, he identifies himself as the worst of sinners. This is the regenerated Paul — the cleaned up, polished-off apostle who is effectively planting churches everywhere he goes.
Yet, he claimed nothing for himself. He desired no pedestal or promotion. In transparent love, he clearly identified with sinners, redeemed only by the pure love of God.
Love Redeeming Hope
So where is our hope and help in the midst of the internal battle we all wage. Paul sums it up in a single sentence.
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
“Who delivers me” is a continuous action! Jesus, our Beloved, continuously draws us into the intimate love and fellowship of the Father, freeing us from the claws of fear, releasing us to transparent love. Risky? Yes. Vulnerable? Beyond question. Worth it? Absolutely.
This morning I awoke weeping and singing, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son, to make (this) wretch his treasure.” I’ve spent the morning resting in that love. In His perfect love, repentance flows freely. Not just remorse or guilt, but a repentance that sets the captive free.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10
Transparent love honestly draws us into repentance of anything that marks, distorts or hinders love’s fullness. Repentance starts at the cross and flows to everyone around us. The world’s vain replica brings destruction. But the honesty of Christ’s love in us leads to the sorrow of repentance that embraces even the wretchedness of our present struggle.
Transparent love redeems pulling us up to a higher standard, a wider reach, a deeper flow of loves pure intent. So herein is God’s challenge to each of us — to love with transparency and honesty, to refuse to play it safe hiding in fear, to risk vulnerability before God and others. The pursuit of such love lasts a lifetime, but such is redeeming love.