Saturday, March 28, 2009

Are We Really Known By It?

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

“You must rail against an immoral society. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.”

“You must be a part of the “right” political party. By this all men will know you are my disciples.”

“You must point out others’ sins. By this all men will now you are my disciples.”

“You must agree with me on all doctrinal issues – especially those pesky controversial ones. By this all men will know you are my disciples.

“You must believe the Bible is inerrant. By this all men will know you are my disciples.”

Some of those are actually good things. I wonder why Jesus didn’t say any of those instead of saying we would be known by our love for one another? You’d think He did say many of them by what we focus on sometimes.

We are intent on becoming the world’s moral and spiritual police. We want to be the Holy Spirit in everyone’s lives. We want to tell others how to vote, what to believe and how to live their lives. We are the first to point out doctrinal errors in their belief systems and we LIKE it! We argue about everything under the sun when it comes to doing life together in church. We enjoy power struggles and beating up on one another verbally (and in a few cases, physically) when they get in our way. We scheme against and seek to discredit and destroy one another to get or keep control. We are not doing the things we need to be doing so that people will know we are Christ’s. We are not loving one another. We are trying to control each other instead. This should not be. If it's true in your life, stop. Repent. Love.

Now consider these words of Christ:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

This passage talks of easy love versus real love. It's easy to love those we already care about. It's easy to love those who we know are fellow believers - those who are safe. We can do it and so can unbelievers according to this passage.

Yet this verse talks of loving those who hate us – those that are diametrically opposed to us. And if we are really honest, we’ll admit that we hate them back just as much. Our words and actions show this more often than not. Oh, we can talk all day long about how we don't hate the sinner, just the sin he's committing. But come on - that's a cop out. It's an easy out. It's a way to justify our continued hatred towards those we feel are damaging us, our society and dishonoring our Lord. It's no wonder we are hated. We are spending way too much time being outraged and too little time loving.

So what is our correct response? Well, sin is sin. We should be heartbroken over it in our lives and in the lives of those we see it ruining. And yes, we should be outraged and righteously angry over it. We know the damage it will do if left unchecked. But we should be on our knees for them pleading God’s mercy and conviction upon their lives. We should be begging Him to change them, not on our bullhorns screaming in their faces. We should never sin in our anger… ever. We are held to a higher standard. We are to love those who hate and persecute us.

We also need to repent for our attitude towards those we have hated. It is never right to hate anyone. I can’t think of a single passage in the Bible where God says it’s okay to hate anyone. And once we repent, we then need to find ways to love them and show them the love of our Father. God loved us and drew us to Him while we hated Him. What makes us think we can do any different?

Further, note that it says we are to love our enemies, "that we may be sons of our Father in heaven." Boy that puts some pressure on us. Sound familiar? Our love for our enemies confirms that God is our Father. So if we don’t love our enemies, then what does that prove about us?

So why these two passages together?

Because they deal with how God wants us to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, and how we are to treat our enemies – meaning those that are lost. That pretty much covers the bases. If we love both groups of people, we have it covered. Now how cool would it be to put this kind of love into practice? Somehow I think that if we indeed loved the way God wants us to, we could just stand back and watch God use our obedience to change lives for eternity. After all, what is more important than that?