April 10, 2020

Throughout my Christian life all my connections have been decidedly Low Church.

I’m a great admirer of the Roman Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton and have learned much from countless Anglicans, chief among them John Charles Ryle, John R. W. Stott, and J.I. Packer.

Only Packer remains, as he approaches his 94th birthday in July. I have no doubt that Packer is our greatest living popular theologian. By ‘popular’ I do not mean that he is well-liked but rather that he makes theology practical. Most theologians write for other theologians. Packer, with his three Oxford degrees, is certainly capable of that as well. But he chooses rather to write for you and to write for me.

I have never marked the liturgical calendar, never paid much attention to the Feast Days, and never given up a favorite pleasure for Lent. I do not mean I am not open to being tutored. I’m only recounting my history thus far. And my history is pretty far down the road.

I have a healthy Puritan fear of obscuring the majors with the minors, but also I have a fear that I am too closed to the wisdom which other communions may offer.

Take yesterday, for instance.

I’m quite sure I’ve never said the words “Maundy Thursday” from a pulpit, and I’ve spoken from pulpits for 44 years. I’m pretty sure I’ve never written the words “Maundy Thursday” until this week. But my curiosity yielded some profitable Bible study.

Christians have been calling the Thursday before Easter Maundy Thursday for at least 500 years. The word is taken from the Latin maundatum, the same word we get “mandate” from.

It means “commandment.”

The particular commandment in view is John 13:34, where Jesus enjoins his followers to love one another. In that Upper Room Discourse on the Thursday evening the word “love” appears in no less than 17 verses, and the command of 13:34 is repeated two more times.

I fear that in my circles Christians sometimes cherish the notion that, “Now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is Bible study.” Or, “Now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is sound doctrine.”

My zeal for Bible study and sound doctrine abides undiminished.

But Bible study and sound doctrine must, after all, yield SOMETHING.

The Gospel is not only informative but transformative.

They will not know that we are Christians because of our sound doctrine.

They will know us by our love.

Because the greatest of these really is love.

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