Wineskins Archive

December 16, 2013

Amor Non Tenet Ordinam (Jan 2012)

Filed under: — @ 11:21 am and

By Nick Gill

The people of God, the incarnate Body of Christ, gathers around His table as we are already gathered together in the heavenlies. We bow our heads, fold our hands, and meditate on our sins, ignoring the actual body around us in favor of imagining the dying body on the cross.

People grieve during this difficult season, and I want to get up and hug them, but that wouldn’t be orderly. Loving, maybe – but not orderly. There’s a time to be loving, but the assembly doesn’t seem to be that time.

I think about how richly Jesus has blessed me, and I want to talk about the wonder of our Christ with someone, but that wouldn’t be orderly either. Loving, maybe – but not orderly – and order rules on Sunday morning.

Why? I think because, ironically, we’ve gotten some ideas OUT of order.

Love and Order in Corinth
Love and order were both in short supply among the Corinthian Christians. The community life, out of which flows all spiritual blessings to the individual members, was a wreck. Instead of treating one another in ways that reflected the truth of Ephesians 2:6-7, that we’re already one body in Jesus Christ raised up and seated in the heavenlies, the Corinthians acted like it was still every-man-for-himself. How do I get honor? I dishonor my fellow Christians. How do I share my knowledge? By embarrassing less knowledgeable believers. How do I worship God? By doing whatever it takes to make sure that he hears ME.


The church in Corinth had a love problem that manifested itself, in some instances, as an order problem. Thus, Paul spends the better part of 16 chapters pointing at the Cross as the ultimate example of love and the ultimate unifying sign. It is to these brethren that he reveals the clearest direct exposition of love in the New Testament. And by way of wrapping up one section of discourse and moving into another, he writes, “So then, brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. And do everything in a decent and orderly manner.” (1 Corinthians 14:39-40 NET)

Somehow, this one verse (thank you, verse-marker-person, for splitting up 39 and 40 to save some people a LOT of problems!) became the framing verse – the verse by which we measured our worship, when Paul could just as easily have written, “I can be as decent and orderly as humanly possible, but without love, I have done nothing.”

Love and Order in 2012

Somehow, as we sat down to work out how our Sunday morning assemblies would function, we asked the order question (how do we keep this orderly?) and just assumed that since we were doing the Sunday AM thing at all, the love question was already taken care of.

The Incarnation is about love – the One True God’s love for his creation. A love that shakes up (disordered?) the lives of everyone it touches, in order to reorient their lives according to the kingdom of God.

The Incarnate life is about love – the Savior’s love radiating through His People into the world. “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” The Incarnate life is about much more than Sunday morning, to be sure, but it isn’t about less. Sunday morning is when we visibly incarnate the truth of Ephesians 2:6-7.

It is much easier to be orderly than to be loving. It doesn’t take any courage to sit still and be quiet. It doesn’t take much faith to do what everyone else is doing. In 2012, how can our assemblies display the truth of the Incarnation to one another and to the world?

1. Encourage displays of love.

“For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself.” (1 Corinthians 13:29 NET)

So much of our assembly activity is very individualized, very focused on what I do and whether or not I do it right. The Lord’s Supper, in particular, is ‘me-and-God’ time. John Mark Hicks, in his book on communion Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper, challenged me to envision this time somewhat differently, as ‘us-and-God’ time – the way all meals shared by the people of God are envisioned in the Scriptures. So, instead of ‘discerning the body’ being an exercise in stifling all exterior thoughts and distractions that might hinder my focus on the image of Jesus on the cross, what if we encouraged one another to look around, to take careful and loving regard for the Body of Christ around us? Instead of being left alone to mourn the empty seat beside her, the widow would be surrounded by loving embraces, by people reminding her that during Communion, we sit at table not only with Christ but also with all who have ever belonged to Him. Could the Lord’s Supper be transformed from a time of mourning to a time of joy? I pray that, in 2012, a careful regard for the Body of Christ around the table will lead to just such a transformation.

2. Incorporate more “we” language

Corporate prayer, and much more often singing, is typically about ME. About the Savior’s love for me. About coming to the garden alone and holding hands with Jesus. I sing about I-me-my relationship with God. Once again, in order to maintain order, these times become ‘me-and-God’ time. Since I and my, we and our have the same number of syllables, they can easily be exchanged for one another in the songs that we sing. This is just one way that we could creatively incorporate more ‘we’ language into our assemblies, so that our words and our thoughts reflect the spiritual reality that we, together, are the Body of Christ in this world.

3. Offer opportunities to be loved.

The Invitation. OH, the Invitation. What an awkward, guilt-ridden, yet powerful and redeemable part of our assemblies! In so many instances, the invitation has become the “if this sermon has made you feel guilty enough, please do the ‘walk of shame’ to the front and let everyone know how sorry you are for the mess you’ve made of your life.” No one looks forward to responding to the invitation! No One (well, maybe those who’ve scheduled their baptism for that time, but that’s another can of worms entirely…).

What if we looked for ways to make the invitation about a time to be loved? It might get rowdy, all that loving, but I believe we could find ways to remove the shame of responding and transform that time into a time to let “everyone know that you are my disciples,” by loving one another publicly.<br><br>In the meantime, remember the words of Columbanus (which, in his original Latin, form the title of this article) – “Love does not concern itself with order.”

Love loves.

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