We had our three-month old grandson overnight at the weekend. Oliver enjoys our childlike joy with a seeming maturity way beyond his few short weeks. I found out from his parents that Oliver ain’t happy when cuddled by those he does not know. I never knew that. I thought babies of Oliver’s age just gurgled with glee at everyone. But apparently not. So his smiles and little conversations and laser eye contact and “trust” in us are because he knows us.
At less than twelve short weeks that blows my mind.
John 10:27 … “I know them” and they know me.
With Oliver that knowing is sight, sound, smell, touch and taste – he knows us in every sense – not just one. And for us the same and more – we have a growing catalogue of his moods, his body language, his distractions, his dislikes – and it helps that mum and dad give us much of their knowing as well.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
I have no expectation that Oliver will “follow me” in the literal sense. That would be embarrassing.
Love is enough. A connection of love of being loved of loving. “Following” gets in the way – too needy of definition – too needy of validation – too needy of need itself. But love …? Love is unspoken connection – an unbreakable bonding of trust in love – of trust in our mutual safety – a safe place that goes way beyond words.
And THAT is the “following” I know.
My relationship with my God is in every sense and more: The bible was just sight. And then over time sight and sound. And then a sense of tone, speed and emphasis. But always “just words”. And then finally of silence. Because words need silence – and silence needs trust – and that is the beginning of relationship. And “getting that” took me ages. Bible preaching and teaching so often gets in the way.
But once in that place … a growing relationship way beyond just words of the bible.
Of smell – that connection by-passing my constant processing. Of taste – his and my personal spice rack of flavour both emotional and physical. And then touch – the touch of love is the glue holding all this in place – a glue of love between us all – a bond of trust of a safe place between you and me.
Which brings me back to our wee grandson.
What purpose is there in the “Great Commission” – of preaching and making disciples? It is to make more preachers and disciples … Which makes more preachers and disciples … And what is the ultimate conclusion to that “Great Commission” … when there are no more lost or unchurched … when all are preachers and disciples … what then … ? Do we rank “how great” a preacher or disciple … do we make “celeb status” the goal … ?
Which again brings me back to Oliver.
Oliver enriches so many lives simply by being Oliver. And Oliver’s life is enriched the same.
Love enriches richly.
Love connects across bridges that don’t exist. Across continents and generations. Across time itself. Even those people who are now dead are loved as they were when alive. Love of being loved of loving remains alive and present across death itself … my mum and dad, our grandparents, our two brothers, extended family, and friends close and far … all still connected by love forever.
I saw a comment fragment that has stuck with me.
It was of a politically charged report and the report’s findings of a politically charged investigation. All political sides were claiming “the findings” vindicated their own (contradictory) claims and accusations. And the comment fragment was this:
Looking around at all the differing theological viewpoints, all extracted from the same bible, all in honour of One True God, all defended vigorously, all contradictory and all claiming vindication from the same bible … I find myself thinking the same: “I think we all know that can’t be true.”
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love is the goal – Love.
And not a huge academic theological discussion about “Which type of love does Jesus mean?” … Nor a pale representation of fake church smiles to everyone’s faces … Not even a guilt-share of a Facebook “Jesus says” status … But love that we all know as love … That five senses of knowing love … The love that Oliver could tell you about if he had the words …
“That” love one another.