Matthew 22:34–40 (NIV)
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I have a dear friend, Tom Kirkendal (aka Big T), who is all at once one of the finest lawyers and first rate people I know. And speaking as a lawyer myself, we all know it can be challenging to find these two people in the same person (in any vocation if we are honest). For twenty-five years now, if I am preparing to preach or teach somewhere he will always ask me, “J. D., what’s your theory on the case?” He is asking me my one or two sentence summary of the whole message.
That’s what I want to give you today—my theory on the case of why the heart of the matter in life and faith comes down to this issue of attachment. I will enumerate my thoughts for clarity. I do not offer this as authoritative, but as my best understanding and wisdom at this time. I believe it could be among some of the most important things I will ever say.
- Agape, or divine love, is both the means and the end of the purpose and power of life. We were made by God for three things that over time become one thing: the love of God, the love of others, and the love of ourselves.
- This kind of love requires an ever-growing and deepening capacity for bonded attachment.
- This attachment happens with God, with others, and with ourselves in the place the Scriptures call the “inmost being.”1
- Our inmost being is the place of our deepest and most complex brokenness. All human brokenness (physical, mental, spiritual, and otherwise) comes directly, indirectly, genetically, and intergenerationally from this place of our most catastrophic fallenness (the inmost being). It is this inward brokenness that generates our false selves which are built on our skewed notions of the character and nature of God, which leads to deceptive and distorted images of ourselves, which leads to self-oriented and dysfunctional relationships with others, which further compounds the brokenness within this deep seated place of our core identity.
- We, as the image bearers of God (male and female), are made for deep bonded attachment with God, with ourselves, and others. This is the deepest essence of our humanity. These attachments are formed through our inmost being in our earliest life; beginning even before birth. Our attachments either evolve or devolve into secure loving bonds or fearful insecure connections from our earliest days and throughout our lives. As a consequence we are formed from a place of abundance and peace or a place of scarcity and want. Our parents and family of origin play an outsized role in the determination of the way we approach relationships and consequently the way we attach to others at the level of our inmost being.
- We tend to see and image of God, ourselves, and others in our inmost being in the way we experienced our earliest attachments with our parents and other early relationships. While this is not determinative, it is highly predictive.
- No matter how great one’s parents may have been, all of us are born into a condition of insecurity and fear owing to the genetically relational lineage of sin and death. Our earliest relationships will either be places of abundance, healing, and love or scarcity, fear, and further wounding and always some combination of both. None of us had perfect parents. None of us are perfect parents. This is not an opportunity to blame everything on one’s parents but rather, to own realities of life. Even in the face of catastrophic failure, give the benefit of the doubt: They did their best with what they had. (Same with us and our children)
- Only a bonded attachment with the living God creates the context of abundant grace and generous mercy that richly forms and nurtures all other relationships in life. As a consequence, the most important relational attachment a parent can have is not first with their children but with God and then with themselves and then with their spouse.
- It is through our broken attachments with other people that our inmost being becomes damaged, distrustful, and even diseased. It is through the love (agape) of God shared through bonded attachments with other people that our inmost being becomes healed, whole, and restored. Broken people break people. Healed people heal people. This is the miracle of the salvation offered by God our Father through Jesus Christ, his Son, through the regenerating presence of the Holy Spirit. We are, in truth and essence, born again—by water and the Spirit—children, indeed sons and daughters of God.
- This gift of salvation and grace of mercy is expressed and extended through the community of beloved sinners becoming blessed saints known as the church (which local churches approximate to a lesser or greater degree). This is why the church, before it is anything else, is a community of salvation and healing; ministering the very grace and mercy of God.
- This is why bonded attachment, forged through forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing are at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why broken, detached, and unreconciled relationships within the body of Christ are the greatest denial of his kingdom and the greatest barriers to the faith of those who do not yet believe. This is why the cross stands at the very center of all that was and is and ever more shall be. As it has been said, the one who was whole made himself broken so that we who are broken could be made whole. The one who was full made himself empty so that we who are empty could be made full.
- Therefore, I implore you to be reconciled to God, to yourself, and to one another. Enter into this grand work of deep wholeness at the place of your inmost self. Grace, mercy, and healing is abundantly available. And remember, you came to be broken in and through relationships with broken people (just like us). You will only be healed through relationships with broken people being healed (just like us) who have chosen to do the work together.
- Now, then . . . your turn . . .
Sorry Big T. rather than my theory on the case, I think I just gave the closing argument.
Wake up, sleeper! This is the stuff of salvation. Far from a transaction gaining one admission into heaven, this is the gateway into the transformational kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Father God, thank you for loving us so completely and comprehensively. Thank you Jesus for the way you took all that was so wrong upon yourself and made it right. Thank you Holy Spirit for the way you heal our inmost being by restoring our attachment to God, ourselves, and each other. Empower us to be bold in walking out this way of grace and mercy; of forgiveness and reconciliation; of salvation and transformation; from one degree of glory to the next. Thank you for the way you bear this fruit of the Spirit, this fruit of love in us and then through us. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Now, then . . . how does this impact you? What implications do you see? What intentions is the Spirit sowing into your inmost being now?
For the Awakening,
NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
- Rather than trying to separate and parse out the distinctive elements of heart, mind, soul, spirit, and further toward emotions, will, desires, affections, dispositions (which can be both helpful and over complex), I find it more productive to begin with the whole of the inmost being as containing all of these various elements and dynamics. It is kind of like trying to diagnose and fix the engine and the radiator and the air conditioner and the carburetor and the transmission of a car. What I need to do is give the whole of the car over to the master mechanic and let him/her sort it all out as they see best in order to repair it. I want to surrender my whole inmost being to God, who alone, through all the means of grace, can sort it out and restore it to his image.