New Testament Christianity by J B Phillips







We have already tried to take an imaginative glance at this planet from the angels' point of view. Probably next to the shrivelling of the faith‑faculty and the closely allied dying down of hope, the most disturbing symptom of the world's disease in the eyes of Heaven is the lack of outgoing love. It is perfectly true, as John pointed out, that "love casts out fear"; but it is also horribly true that fear casts out love. In a world full of tensions and anxieties, strife, envy, and suspicion, love and goodwill are very largely driven out. The very best of human schemes fail through sheer lack of love to implement them. Now, it should be obvious that if there is to be a fresh intake of love, it can only come from God Himself, and that it can only be received by those who are willing to be open to God and ready to co‑operate with His Purpose. To come down to ourselves, our poverty‑stricken love can only be enriched and deepened by making ourselves wide open to the love of God. For this cleansing and reinvigorating process, we must have deliberate and planned periods of quiet communion with God. There is no other solvent for our prides and prejudices than this love. Fear will not be driven from our hearts by resolution only, but by the willing reception of the very Spirit of Love. A lot of this must, I think, be done in private, but a lot more must be done in Christian fellowship. To whatever Church we belong we must meet together far more frequently than hitherto to receive in faith the Body and Blood of our Lord. This is, above all, our Appointment with God, the place and the time where Heaven meets the deficiencies of earth. Here, under cover of the earthly and the ordin­ary, we may receive the spiritual and the supra‑natural. There can be no doubt that the Young Church renewed, not only its faith and courage, but that deep love which went far beyond the emotions of the fellowship itself by meeting together for "the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). All of us who are spiritually awake at all are conscious of and concerned about the needs of the world around us. I have read the results of much study on the problem of how the ordinary men and women outside the Churches may be won for Christ. One conclusion is common to the results of any group or Church who have studied and prayed about this problem. It is simply this ‑ that people can only be loved into the Kingdom of God. I believe this is profoundly true, and no method or organisation, however useful in itself, will compensate for the lack of love. This is where we are driven back upon God, Who is Love. Where else shall we draw our supplies of compassion and self‑giving, our willingness to serve? Who else can transform us from people with a limited ability to love into people who can feel real con­cern for the condition of others who are far outside our natural circles of living? From what other source shall we find the courage to go into unpromising situations and redeem them by the power of love?


"The greatest of these is love", (I Corinthians 13:13) wrote Paul long ago, and we all agree with admiration. But how far do our lives endorse what we assent to so readily? "The greatest of these is success" might well be the motto of many people, even though they themselves are not successful. "The greatest of these is security" is the motto of countless thousands. "The greatest of these is know­ledge" is the unexpressed opinion of many of our scien­tifically‑minded generation. We have to become convinced afresh that Paul's inspired words are quite literally true. Love is the greatest because without it there is no worth‑while success and certainly no real security. Love is the greatest because men are never transformed at heart permanently except by love. Love is the greatest because without it knowledge can become dangerous and even suicidal. Above all, love is the great­est because it persists beyond the confines of this tem­poral existence. The success of the film‑star, the bril­liance of the best‑selling novelist, the speed of the record­breaking athlete, the awe‑inspiring knowledge of the top‑secret scientist ‑ of what value will these and a hun­dred other highly‑prized achievements be, what will they amount to in the Real World for which we are bound? But what has been done in love ‑ the problems that have been solved, the personalities redeemed, the situations changed, the actual growth of character be­neath the influence of love ‑ all these will stand as per­manent and demonstrable evidence of the divine Pur­pose of Love. All of us are inclined to be swayed more than we realise by the values of the world in which we live; but must we be so dazzled and blinded that we fail to see the paramount importance as well as the perman­ence of Love?


on to 8. Peace

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