In Joss Whedon’s 2005 space adventure, Serenity, a crew of what can best be described as “space cowboy pirates” finds themselves in a situation of needing to abandon their own self preservation instincts to run in order to protect those they care about as well as the rest of the galaxy. When everything is over, and they have even seen the loss of one of their own crew, they rebuild their ship and try to find their bearings in the world once again. In one of the most profound moments of the movie, Captain Mal, played by Nathan Fillion, gives the core of flying the old beat up ship, Serenity.
For River, you can have all of the understanding and technical know how, but unless there is love, ultimately the ship crash.
I have been called a Theology Nerd on multiple occasions. This is probably due to the fact that I have my favorite go to exegetical commentaries (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary, the NICOT and NICNT, in case you were wondering) and can spend hours talking about in depth theology. It is frankly fun and I have enjoyed many a late night conversation talking about opinions and thoughts on various things. Yet, at the core of everything we think, there is a greater and deeper force at work that goes beyond the rationalistic thinking to a deeper more intimate part of my life; love. The love for God and from God should rest at the center of everything.
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, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13, ESV
I can have a great deal of technical knowledge or even phenomenal educational credentials that can understand complex situations, ethical scenarios, but ultimately my relationship with Jesus Christ is dependent on love. Love is what drives us to pursue holiness in our life, not so that God will love us but because God already does. Love is what drives our desire to know Him and be known by Him. Love is the part that, while knowing we are fully vulnerable, completely understands that God’s desire is for a deep connection with Him. Love is the center of our fait and the core of the story of all of scripture. We love others because Christ was slain before the foundations of the world and we long for that love deep within our soul.
The hardest part of understanding the idea that Jesus loves us is not in the rationalistic understanding. For this, our brain can understanding it easier than our heart. I have always been able to explain that God’s love for me goes beyond my own personal sins. The biggest struggle I have had with this thought is not in understanding the thought, but submitting to it in my heart. Unconditional love can be one of the hardest thing to relent and feel from a perfect Savior. We can provide all of the rationality of why we do not deserve to be loved and, honestly, we would be right. However, Jesus was not concerned with the reasons to abandon the people. Jesus’ love for us on the cross transcended the reasons we gave Him to not do it.
As we explore our faith, as we dive deeper into our understanding of a Holy and Infinite God, our first step is to sit at the foot of the cross, and allow the love of Jesus Christ to penetrate the most guarded parts of our heart. “ Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13