Monday, February 24, 2020

What 'Love One Another' Doesn't Mean

        As we wrap up this last week in February, the month we celebrate 'love', I want to blog on what I've seen or experienced myself, as what 'love one another' doesn't mean.  This command, love one another, is addressed directly to Jesus’ followers. Christians are to love one another. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love people who are not Christians. To the contrary, we are to love everyone always. We are to love our neighbors regardless of race, religion, age, or political affiliation.  Love doesn't mean agreeing on issues that are biblically wrong, but it means loving the lost towards Christ.  Romans 5:8 is our example towards this goal, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

      "Having God's unconditional love doesn't mean you have his unconditional approval." [M. McPherson]

       I'll begin with the sinful, hurt of gossip.  Proverbs 11:13 "gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret."  I've been on the receiving end of gossip from a friend about another friend that was struggling with a low point in her life.  I immediately said, "STOP, that is gossip and I won't listen to it or be a part of it."   That is how we stop sin in its tracks and show love for the victim of the gossip thread.  As Matthew Henry says, " In the lips of a slanderer and backbiter there is as a fire, not only to brand his neighbor’s reputation, to smoke and sully it, but as a burning fire to consume it."  Proverbs 16:28 "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.  There is a difference about gossip in that it has a destructive motive without care or concern for the spoken of.  May we always choose to be peacemakers and build each other up, in and with love.

      Next, I'll confront the issue of sincere love, because the bible has much to say about it.  Romans 12:9 says "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."  A person who was once a friend of mine and to me before conflict arose, now says they 'love me' yet won't refer to me as 'friend' anymore.  That is not sincere love but a twist on semantics.  1 Peter 1:21-23 "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."   When we are born again, we can love with purity, sincerity, and deeply from our hearts.

        Also, churches can have an inclusive nature that is not welcoming to new people.  This is not healthy or good for the church itself or for people seeking to find the right church home.  The body of Christ is made up of sinners who have been redeemed from their sin-debt through Jesus, but they are not perfect, fail daily, and are forgiven.  God never gave a list of pre-requisites to the command of 'love one another'.  Love is the first step to showing someone to Christ and hopefully towards accepting their gift of salvation.

       Lastly, let me discuss how church can fail to meet our expectations, in regards to loving one another.  "Why are we surprised by failure in the body of Christ?"  So many people I know personally want to know God more but their scars from the Christian community keeps them at a fragile distance.  To them I say, "“If you’re waiting for our church to disappoint you, I promise you we will. In spades. We’re a bunch of sinners.  But if you’re looking for friends who will show you their wounds too, who will go to Jesus with you and trust God to heal us all together, then that’s who we want to be." []  The hurt is real out there, but we can't let people keep us from God's invitation of eternal love and hope.  "With each year’s demographic reports, we hear how people are exiting religious communities at a rapid clip. Curiosity around general “spirituality” is on the rise, but fewer and fewer people have any interest in belonging to actual churches. "  May we recognize our own sinfulness as we encourage others to be a part of our Jesus-led lives and churches, so they might have the same hope and saving grace that we have been given.

         May we love one another in all the 50 ways the bible says to. "By obeying the Spirit, through the Word of God, the believer can love like Christ does. He shows that unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love to fellow believers, but it doesn’t stop there. He also shows the love of Christ to friends, to family members, to coworkers, etc. Even enemies are the recipients of Christ’s love. Those who love like Christ in the Holy Spirit’s power will give evidence that they are disciples, or learners, of Jesus Christ." []