God is glorified by a lot of things. For example, God is glorified in nature by the fact that He created it, and it speaks about Him. (Rom 1:19-20) God is glorified in the fact of man’s creation (Ps 139) – not just in an ontological sense either, but in the continuous sense that every one of a man’s days are written out by God’s plan. God is glorified by the fact of the Bible (Ps 119), and that God has bothered to speak to people for their own good.
But there’s a way in which God is glorified which, I think, we overlook pretty regularly. And I have a passage of Scripture about that which I’d like to present and discuss:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."You all know that part, right? It’s a redaction of Deu 6 and Lev 19 – but not in such a way which harms Scripture. Jesus says so Himself – if the lawyer who was testing Him lived this way (loving God and loving men), he’d be all set.
Think about that: for Jesus, it was enough to say that loving God greatly (with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind) and loving men particularly (that is, the same way you love yourself) to warrant the inheritance of eternal life. There’s no mention there of resurrection or repentance, is there? Yet Christ says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
Was Jesus preaching “sloppy agape”? Where’s the Glory of God? Where’s the law, and man’s inability? Doesn't this conversation intimate a synergistic view? How could the lawyer who was testing Him be “correct” to say that the Law demands love -- in the right way, and two different kinds of love to be sure – and that this is enough to gain eternal life?
Here’s where that story goes, for those of you who haven’t read it lately:
But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"Now, think on this: the matter of loving God as it is manifest in loving people is what is at stake here. The lawyer asked the question “who is my neighbor” to “justify” himself – that is, either to demonstrate that his first question was not a trap, or to demonstrate that he is not himself a fool for asking a ridiculously simple question.
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
He said, "The one who showed him mercy."
And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." [Luke 10, ESV]
So the matter of “who is my neighbor” is about how we keep the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. And in that, Christ [as Luke tells it] gives us 3 examples of men who have some relationship with God and with an actual person.
You’ve heard this sermon before, I am sure: the priest avoided the man; the Levite avoided the man. But the Samaritan did not avoid the man. It seems like a kindergarten Sunday school lesson, I am sure, but let’s think about this for a minute. In John 4, the woman [a Samaritan] at the well said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, John makes clear) That is, the Samaritans worship God apart from the Jews, and the Jews think that because of this, there is enmity between them – the Samaritans are rather less than lovers of God.
But it is the Samaritan who, as Jesus says, “proved to be a neighbor”.
Look: I haven’t jumped ship here. I’m not saying that Jesus endorses the idea that it doesn’t matter which god you worship as long as you do nice things for people. I think what Jesus is saying is that even a Samaritan who is not a Levite or a priest can prove to be a neighbor, and in that why can’t the priest and the Levite prove to be a neighbor? If they love God, they ought to be loving their neighbor.
Consider it: the Levite and the priest have the temple, and its sacrifices – but what do those things cause them to do? The Lawyer can cite the Sh’ma, and connect the admonition of the Sh’ma to obey God and His law to the broad command of Lev 19 which says, frankly, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself in a concrete way. Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat; care for the poor from your own portion; do not take vengeance, and do not do injustice in court. But Christ tells him that loving God requires you to love people. You can't be doing the former unless you are doing the latter.
So the matter of the temple is not at stake; the matter of Unitarian inclusivity is not at stake; the matter of Christology is not at stake; the matter of synergism vs. monergism is not at stake. What is at stake in this example is whether we can say we love God if we do not do what He has said to do – specifically, to love your neighbor. That is, the matter of rightly obeying all the Law as the Law presents itself is at stake.
See: God is glorified when we love. That may seem somewhat uncontroversial to some people, but there’s a reason God is glorified when we love: it is because God loves. The fact – the indisputable fact of the Bible – is that God loves men, and that love is glorifying to God.
So yes: God’s wrath is glorifying to Him. God’s Justice is glorifying to Him. God’s Holiness is glorifying to Him. But God’s Love is also glorifying to Him because it is as great as His Holiness. It is as great as His Justice. It is as great as His Wrath.
And it is glorifying to Him when we show it to others. We can show them His Wrath by walking them through the Law, and through Revelation, and by presenting the Cross as the object of His wrath. But if we do those things and omit the Love which is evident in those things – evident because it seeks to set aside wrath by mercy, and patience, and a public declaration – what have we done? What kind of God have we declared? Without calling anyone any names, does this put us in danger of making the same kind of mistake Jesus accuses the religious leaders in Mat 23 of making -- neglecting the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness as things people do?