Colorado Christian University is guided by a set of Strategic Priorities. These serve as a compass for the University directing the implementation of our mission. This post is part of an on-going series of posts that will attempt to amplify the meaning of our University’s Strategic Priorities.
Universities place a high premium on knowledge. Rightly so. Knowledge is extremely important to higher education, but the Bible tells us that there is something even more important than knowledge, and that is love.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge….. but have not love, I am nothing” (1-3). Immediately after this he becomes even more blunt, and says that “knowledge will pass away. But love never ends” (vs. 8). Have you come to grips with the importance of love?
One way to honor Jesus Christ is “by sharing the love of Christ on campus and around the world.” We share his love, not because we are naturally loving, but because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) and his love has been poured into our hearts.
Scripture says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The love of God is expressed in many ways, but supremely through his atoning sacrifice for us on the cross of Christ. The French churchman and Benedictine leader Bernard Clairvaux once put it this way. He said that whenever he looked at a crucifix, he saw Christ’s wounds as lips speaking to him the words, “I love you.”
It is in response to his love for us that we are to love him back (the Great Commandment), and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (the Second Great Commandment). Not only that, neighbor love is a true test for the genuineness of our love for God. In 1 John 4:20, 21 it says that, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.34-35).
All this runs counter to our own selfish nature and counter to the current ethos of our culture. Much has been written on the narcissism of our time. We are living in a self-obsessed age. Time magazine dubbed it the “me, me, me generation.” Of course, self-obsession predates our times. Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, once wrote that these commandments of Jesus should be rejected. We should only love our neighbor, said Freud, if they are like me, or if they earn it, or if they are worthy of our love. We must not love the stranger, or the unworthy, or those we do not know, let alone love our enemy, which, he said, was incomprehensible.
Jesus’ command to love others also runs counter to the current wave of identity politics and tribalism that evaluates people based on which tribe they belong to, or which intersectional characteristics they embody. Christian teaching, however, points in a very different direction. It instructs us to not just love our neighbor but to even love our enemies. It is driven by a “common humanity” ethic that says that every person is created in the image of God and therefore we are to do good to all and to respect the dignity of all. In his book The Weight of Glory,C. S. Lewis wrote, “next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
Where should we share the love of Christ? The place to start is with the person next to you—your sister or brother, your parents or spouse, a literal neighbor. For students, the place to start is on campus, in your residence hall, with your roommate. These are your neighbors. We can share his love on campus. Added to this, we are part of a community here in Lakewood. Each year CCU residential students have an outreach called CCU2Lakewood, in which the students engage in service projects in our city. Without stopping there, we must also share Christ’s love around the world. Each year CCU sends hundreds of students on national and international mission trips all over the world with CCU2theworld. Why? To share the love of Christ with all people, tribes, and nations.
How do we share his love? Let’s start with the obvious. First, we must share it in the strength that Christ provides. Who is it that rescues us from our own self obsession? Who is it that gives us the love to love the unlovely? Who is it that gives us the power to love when on our own it feels impossible? It is Jesus and his Holy Spirit. The Triune God pours his love into our hearts, he gives us new eyes to look upon the people around us. Remember, love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit!
Second, we share his love with our deeds and words. We respect and honor people, not simply for what they do, but for who they are, regardless of their status, position, race, etc. We are called to extend kindness. When we speak truth, we must do so in love. When we talk we must do so respectfully. When we disagree we must do so with convictional kindness. We pray for people, extend hospitality to them, share with them; we help the poor, the hungry, the sick, the downtrodden, all the while honoring God and his moral law in all that we do. We are to alleviate distress and suffering in Jesus name.
What does love look like? Someone once asked the great theologian Augustine of Hippo that same question. He replied that love “has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Finally, we share his love by extending the most important news in the world—the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the greatest acts of love is sharing the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, not only in remote parts of the world, but right here in our own post-Christian, secularized, western world. Love involves sharing the news that there is a God who made us, that he is the one to whom we must someday give an account. This God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son Jesus to die on a cross for sinners, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). The greatest treasure we can ever give to a person is the saving gospel of Jesus. Our words and our deeds commend this gospel.
The apologist Francis Schaeffer once said that the “mark of the Christian” is love. It is the greatest apologetic in the church’s toolbox. He said that our love must have a form that the world may observe, it must be “seeable.” In saying this, he echoed Jesus who said: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Unfortunately, we often do not look like what we are talking about. We make great claims for Christ, but there is sometimes a credibility gap between our words and actions. That’s why Schaeffer’s comment about love being the defining mark of the Christian is so important. By this the world will know that Christians are indeed Christians and Jesus was sent by the father.”
Our aspiration is that our students, and our faculty, would model this as well as we all “share the love of Christ on campus and around the world.”
At a university such as ours, we require most of our professors to hold a terminal degree—the PhD. It is the highest achievement one can earn as a student in a university. While PhDs are important, 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that there is something even more important. For the Christian, love is the terminal degree by which our lives will be finally evaluated. Only love will last.
The terminal degree God is most interested in, is not an academic one, however important that may be in the academy. The terminal degree that all of us should be working for is to learn how to love other people in his strength.