A Lesson in Indicatives and Imperatives
I was driving by a church yesterday and read a sign that contained the message in the picture at right. This is not a photo of the actual sign, but a simulation provided with the help of www.churchsigngenerator.com. A very entertaining site.
Well, what do you think is wrong with this picture, as it relates to what I’ve posted in the past about indicatives and imperatives?
1. Q. Which part of this sign’s question falls into the category of indicative?
A. ” . . . the love you seek from Christ”
2. Q. Which part falls into that of imperative?
A. “Are you giving others the love . . . “
3. Q. Which idea logically precedes the other?
A. The Imperative precedes the Indicative in this sign, which signifies that our obedience earns God’s love.
4. Q. Does this order of concepts constitute Biblical Christianity?
A. No, Biblical Christianity is constituted by God’s indicatives calling for our response in obedience to the imperatives.
The basic message of this sign is “God promises to give his love to those who will love others the way he promises to love them.” Or more starkly, if that’s possible, “If you love others the way you want Christ to love you, then you’ll earn the right for Christ to love you.” That’s an imperative-driven indicative.
Now many Christians will drive by and accept this clumslily worded message as a challenge to love others. If you asked them, they would affirm that they didn’t earn God’s love, but the truth has fallen on such hard times, that they don’t see any theological error in the sentiment on the sign. Christians today believe love is more important than truth. That’s why they see no value in taking signs like this to task for the “abstract, irrelevant” theology. Although they’ve learned that the theologically correct idea is that they don’t deserve God’s love, they live as if they can earn it by doing something for God. That’s the kind of preaching that’s most popular today. It goes largely unrecognized because it’s never put this frankly. But anytime you hear a preacher major on some command of Scripture and then work his way from the command to Scripture’s promises of God’s grace, he is preaching salvation by works, no matter what he calls it.
The Biblical order, once again, class, is that Christians who’ve received God’s grace are to respond in grateful love to God’s grace by obeying his commands to love others. Since I don’t have time now to spell out a laundry list of Scripture let my mantra suffice, “We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19; read the whole paragraph from verse 13-21 and you’ll need little other Scriptural proof of my assertions)”
Okay, gotta go. Remember, God has loved those of you who believe because Christ earned righteousness for you and then traded it with you for your sin. He did what you couldn’t and then suffered what you should’ve so you wouldn’t have to and also so that he can share with you the reward he, and he alone, deserves. Now once this truth hits you, you should feel grateful and love this person who gave his life for you on the cross so that you could live. He says, if you love me, keep my commandments. He commands us to love others. Therefore, the sign should read something like this:
“Are you giving others the love Christ gave you?”
Now that’s an indicative-driven imperative!