The Free Nature of Love—- A CKB Quote

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(Elvet Methodist Church where CKB often preached in Durham)

If God had been intending to coerce all human
beings into accepting the risen Jesus by a manifestation of unmistakable

supernatural power, he might have saved himself the trouble and pain of
the Incarnation. Why go through all the motions of the ministry of Jesus if in
the end all people were to be dragooned by main force into the right camp?
Practically, and that is not quite the same as logically, you cannot coerce
the love we have just been talking about. As I write this, a pleasing memory
comes into my mind from the distant past. It must have been in 1938 that
the plans for the Cambridge Evangelistic Campaign fell through, and some
of us joined in an Oxford mission in Stafford. I remember how we teased a
huge and very gentle rowing blue, 14 or 15 stone of him, as he stood on a
soapbox and brandished a huge fist in the face of the crowd, declaring with
the greatest vigor, “my friends this is a Gospel of love.” He knew, I am sure, as
well as any of us, that you cannot make people love by shaking your fist at
them. You cannot coerce love. If ever God tried it, the response would not
be love.
I do not mean that the time will never come when God will draw a line
under the sum, and bring the patient process to an end. But Easter means
that the pleading with people, the waiting for the response of love that
marked the ministry of Jesus, goes on and is extended to cover all persons
of all ages and places. “We love,” said John in the First Epistle, “because he
first loved us.” Our love is a response. God’s love is not. It is as Anders Nygren
said, uncaused, unmotivated love; or as Charles Wesley said “he hath loved,
he hath loved us because he would love.” There is no charm, no attractiveness
to elicit his love. But ours is response. And it is in some respects the
supreme miracle of Easter that the response is still possible and the offer
is still open. “Well” we might say, “I gave him his chance, I was willing to be
friends, but he wouldn’t have it, so I have finished with him now.” How natural
and how common. But it is not the way God asked. God could have, on
Good Friday, closed the offer with a bang. But Easter means the offer of love
stands open yet; “and he who loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I
will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”— C.K. Barrett


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