If it is true that as the People of God we share the attributes of the Anointed One then we are marked with joy and gratitude, then we live in beauty and praise, and we walk in freedom and integrity. This is not a piece of triumphalist self-aggrandizement but a simple exposition and application of these verses in Isaiah 61:1-3. This is the grace- life to which we have been called.
And make no mistake: it’s an end in itself. God loves to bless. “I have set my love upon them” is the hallmark of covenant life on earth as much as life in heaven. And God’s love is never defeated by our performance or worthiness.
And yet we have a gut feeling –a God-given instinct – that “The best things in life make you sweaty” (as someone said to me). Or as Emerson put it, in more elegant fashion, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
This is the whole purpose of the anointing, to live out of the grace we have received and to do something with it. And so, as John put it, “Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:6) So how did Jesus walk?
All that needs to be done to describe the parameters of this lifestyle is to examine the verbs in our passage (Isaiah 61:1-3).
God has purposed me:
“to bring [good news]…
to bind up…
In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, he writes this: “God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.”
And love is an active verb.
This is the very heart and substance of the anointing. To walk as Jesus walked means to live life as He did.
The best explanation of what that means comes from the Gospel of John, and Jesus’ explicit words: “Love… as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). These words were spoken in the very shadow of the cross, and the cross was a practical exposition of what the words meant. So, you might say, these words cost Him His life.
But how do we read them for ourselves? Only in the terms that Jesus gave – in the light of His life: “As I have loved you.”
He calls it a “new commandment,” but was it? Maybe it was new in the way that electricity was new in the nineteenth century. It had been around for centuries but never released and harnessed until then. It was never useful until then!
We sometimes think of the Great Commission as if it was a project, but we forget that the command was rather the result of a spirit working from inside, than of a command working from outside. That spirit was love.
Think of all those early Christians cheerfully facing persecution and almost certain death because of a fire that had ignited their hearts. It was an unstoppable passion that caught, and spread, and would not stop. And imagine that new voice emerging from Israel – where a whole raft of inward-looking and restrictive laws had been set up just to fend off foreigners!
It was new in extent. The Jews knew how to love their neighbour but Jesus redrew the idea of who their neighbour was! It’s anyone in need. It’s even an enemy.
This is the very heart of Christianity. Not a law, but a spirit; not a creed, but a life. To this one motive of love, God entrusted the whole work of winning the world. The human heart is designed for love – and only in love can you expand. And so there came one who could look with insight into the springs of human action, and to proclaim the simplicity of its machinery. “Love,” said Paul, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” And it can never be reduced into a kind of legalism. We are told that in the new commandment the old perishes: that under the law of love, man is free from the law of works. How does that work out?
Pick a commandment – for example, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth. I may abstain from murder and theft, deterred by law; because law has made certain penalties. But I may also rise into the spirit of love – then I am free from the law; the law was not made for a righteous man: the law no more binds or restrains me.
Or the seventh. Adultery: You may keep that law from dread of discovery, or you may learn a higher love: and then you cannot injure a human soul; you cannot degrade someone, in the strong language of John, you “cannot” sin, because you are born of God.
It was the proclamation of this, the great living principle of human obedience, not with the pedantry of a philosopher, nor the exaggeration of an orator, but in the simple reality of life, which made this commandment of Christ a new commandment. It was “as I have loved you.” It’s the spirit of total giving.
The love of Christ was the spirit of giving all He had to give. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” Christ’s love was not a feeling; it was a self-giving.
Even his enemies agreed: “He saved others; himself He cannot save.” Yes, that’s absolutely right: the first clause contained the answer to the second – “Himself He cannot save!” How could He, having saved others? How can any keep what he gives? How can any live for self, when He is living for others? Unconsciously, those enemies were spelling out the very principle of Christianity, the baseline of all existence, that only by losing self you can save others; that only by giving life you can bless. Love gives itself. The mother spends herself in giving life to her child; the soldier dies for his country; “He saved others; himself He cannot save.” That was the love of Christ.
Jesus showed this in his life as much as in his death: think of his kindness (such an underrated virtue!). “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat.” He never got so wrapped up in the Big Picture, that he missed the details. So He says, quietly, “Come aside into a desert place, and rest awhile.” He didn’t want the disciples knackered.
Think of those dying words: “Behold your mother! Woman, behold your son!” Short sentences, as if He was just too exhausted to say more. But in that hour of torture, He could think of his mum, and with delicate, thoughtful attention provide for her well-being.
Sometimes, when we think about “the Anointing”, we get smitten by the “You could be another Moses syndrome.” We want to do big important thing and so we wait for the big opportunities. We crave celebrity like hopefuls at an X Factor audition. But life passes, and the acts of love are not done at all. But the kindness of Christ was shown in little things. And such are the parts of human life. Opportunities for doing the Big Stuff seldom occur; life is made up of the tiny things. Take today: small attentions, kind looks, which made you better. “Love as I have loved.”
You know someone like that? She changes everything around her.
That is the Love Anointing which encompasses every one of those Isaiah 61 verbs. It’s loving as Jesus loved. Plus it prepares you for more. Jesus will not give you a Ferrari until you can handle a bike. The one who will be found in trial capable of great acts of love, is always the one who is always doing considerate small ones. The one who poured himself out to death upon the cross for the human race, was the Spirit of Him who thought of the wants of the people, contrived for the rest of the disciples, and was thoughtful for a mother.
And that love was never foiled by the unworthiness of those on whom it had been bestowed. And yet there was everything to shake that trust in humanity. The Pharisees called him “Good Master,” whilst plotting his destruction. The people shouted Hosannas, and a few days later were shrieking for His blood. One disciple who had dipped in the same dish, and been trusted with His intimate fellowship, deceived and betrayed Him; another denied Him; three fell asleep while He was preparing for death; all forsook Him and fled. Yet nothing is more surprising than that unshaken, obstinate, trust with which He clung to His hopes of our nature, and believed in the teeth of the evidence!
You believe in Christ? Great. But the wonder is that He believes in you.
Our experience, on the other hand, when things go wrong, is to become jaded by disappointment. We learn to distrust. We get cynical. And the only way to prevent this withering of the heart is to love. Love is its own oasis. And love trusts on. It keeps hoping. It keeps expecting better things in the future and refuses to keep playing that “Record of wrongs” from the past.
And somehow, it is that very trust that makes people trustworthy. That’s the principle upon which Jesus wins the hearts of His redeemed. He trusts the doubting Thomas, and Thomas comes into a faith worthy “of his Lord and his God.” He doesn’t let the weakness and faltering of Peter to shake His conviction that Peter might love him yet, and Peter responds and rises in it to become the rock Jesus always knew he was.
And Jesus prayed forgiveness for the world that rejected Him and broke the stranglehold of satan upon it. “And the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of the Christ.
And He loves us. And we rise into that new and wonderful relationship. It changes us forever. I want to learn to love as He loved. I want to live in the conquering power of a love like His.
Two closing reflections:
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” ― Thomas Merton.
“Lord, when I feel that what I’m doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it.”― Brennan Manning,