You Cannot Describe Love

April 29th, 2014

The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.) Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water?
—John 4:9-11

We are meditating upon “full of grace and truth” and the fact that “truth” could only be revealed through “grace.” I was about to speak on the subject of “The Word became flesh” when a soloist sang very beautifully “O Love of God.” It is a moving song describing in vivid terms how, if the sea were an inkwell, and every blade of grass a quill, and every person a scribe by trade, and the sky a parchment upon which to inscribe the love of God, it would drain the ocean dry—would exhaust a person’s capacity—to describe it. True. For the method used to describe the love of God would be an inadequate method. It would be the Word of love become word. And no matter how vivid the rhetoric may be, it is futile, for it can’t be done by that method. You cannot describe love—you have to see it—see it in an act.

I was addressing a mass meeting in a North Carolina city in a public hall. There were probably two hundred pastors on the platform. Black people were segregated in the balcony. Before I began speaking, the white ministers left the platform, went to the gallery before all, and took their places among the black people. I have forgotten what I said about the Christian attitude toward race—perhaps the people have too, but I can never forget that Word of love become flesh in those pastors. They revealed the nature of truth in race relations by a gracious act. The “truth” was revealed through “grace.”

But while “grace” is first, “truth” has to be second. This “grace” is not maudlin sentimentality—it is “truth.” It works according to the laws of truth, it works within the framework of integrity and truth. Some ex-headhunters of Borneo taught me this very vividly. One of them said to me about his newfound faith in Christ, “Christianity is the only faith where you can’t wangle God to get benefits out of him.” He was profoundly right. He was used to a faith where you could cajole, bribe, and wangle your god to get him to do favors. Not so Christ.

O Jesus, my Lord, you are truth. We cannot bribe, wangle, or induce you. We can come to you honestly obeying your laws and get everything we need, but we can’t come with crooked motives and methods. We are grateful we cannot wangle you. I thank you. Amen.

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I do not attempt to please Christ—I surrender to him and follow and obey him. The pleasing takes care of itself—a by-product.

Excerpt from: The Word Became Flesh by E. Stanley Jones. Copyright © 1963 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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