“And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.”
It was short. A 13 minute sermonette, to be precise. Yet, Michael Curry was able to take captive the imagination of the world, possibly even outshining the bride and groom attached to the whole affair. A plethora of media articles were quickly written in response, as thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, scribbled on their social media accounts what they thought about Michael Curry’s sermon.
It was preached passionately and, on the surface, seemed to be a Christian message – one preached on Jesus and Christian love. There were things in it to like, and I was certainly taken by pleasant surprise of certain things that Curry included.1)Given his stances on ‘gay marriage’ and other issues. He spoke on Jesus’ death, his sacrifice for others, and even the actual golden rule – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment.” I was impressed that he didn’t just ignore that and grasp “Love your neighbor as yourself” by the jugular.
However, there was something missing. Something that some may consider insignificant but is actually of paramount import: There was no exhortation. The Gospel was missing in action.
Indeed, Curry’s focus on love, albeit one he correctly states derives from God, fails at the end of the day to rightly scope, qualify, or define that love. Whereas he speaks on the effects of ‘redemptive’ love, he fails to connect the listeners to precisely the how, what, why and who. How can love be redemptive? What ultimately is the goal of redemptive love? Is all love necessarily redemptive? Why do we want redemptive love? What are we redeeming and why are we redeeming it?
The reality is that in bite-sized chunks, what Curry states is not incorrect. Yet disconnected from the main picture of what redemptive love actually means, and the impossibility of loving redemptively outside of being in Christ, he projects a vacuous understanding of the real good news. And what is the good news? And what, then, is redemptive love? It is the understanding that despite being at odds with our sovereign God and creator, that this same God loved us so much that He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to himself. So that through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the breach between man and God could be filled for anyone who believes in Christ. This was why “he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.”2)Bishop Michael Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon: Full Text Of ‘The Power Of Love’, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/20/612798691/bishop-michael-currys-royal-wedding-sermon-full-text-of-the-power-of-love It is really this love visibly shown from the eternal Godhead, from the Father who willingly and lovingly sends his Son, and the Son who willingly and lovingly submits to the Father through the laying down of His life, that evidence the truest form of a redemptive love.
What Curry articulates as a redemptive love is, in fact, the subsequent outworking of trusting in Christ. That we who do trust in Christ, are given new hearts and are able to love God and others in a way that we were meant to do in the beginning. Loving others in a way that is sacrificial and, most importantly, God-honouring. This so-called redemptive love is, then, a restoration to how love ought to be, and therefore, instead of being called ‘redemptive’ love, ought to be seen as a ‘redeemed’ or ‘restored’ love. But, it cannot be achieved without first being given the new heart that we have through believing in Christ. Even then, with a new heart, we don’t always love in a way which is necessarily redeemed.
Yet, this is what belies the premise of Curry’s talk. Speaking about redemptive love and how we ought to strive towards it without first exhorting individuals to finding and coming to the redemptive love of Christ, is ultimately either putting too much faith in man’s ability to usher in a utopia of their own making or it presents such an anaemic account of the Gospel message, that it urgently requires a triple heart bypass. It fails to properly present a diagnosis of the human condition, and consequently, our inability to love in the way that he presents unless we first understand our own need of Christ’s redemptive love. At the very best, Curry’s talk may prompt listeners to question and to dig further to find out exactly what Curry is speaking about or, at worse, through his use of such ‘inclusive’ language, he presents an untenable universalistic hope of a reality where God welcomes all who simply ‘love’. As it is, apparently, love which shows us how to live.
This is why the omission of an exhortation, of a call to repentance and to trust in Christ, was so critical. It was no small thing to miss, and the lack of it unfortunately relegates Curry’s message as nothing more than a talk about love. Where whilst he speaks of God and Christ’s sacrificial death, they appear to be nothing more than footnotes in Curry’s grand attempt to present a humanly-impossible-to-achieve love that can “change the world”.
Evangelicals are divided on what they took away from Curry’s talk. Some claim that the gospel was proclaimed, others that the it completely missed its mark. However, I believe the reality is that Curry’s sermon was an incredibly well crafted, polymorphic, talk. The content was so ambitiously vague that you could take away from it precisely what you wanted to hear. If you’re a Christian, you likely took away the elements which resonated with you, as you interpreted his words. If you’re a non-Christian listening, you would’ve likely interpreted his words as being about the supremacy of love. The listener is left to construct precisely the intention of the sermon, with the minimal pieces that Curry provides.
However, one thing is certain – an omission of a biblical exhortation is demonstrative that there was no proclamation of the Gospel.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Given his stances on ‘gay marriage’ and other issues.|
|2.||↑||Bishop Michael Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon: Full Text Of ‘The Power Of Love’, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/20/612798691/bishop-michael-currys-royal-wedding-sermon-full-text-of-the-power-of-love|