7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12
It always has been, and always will be about love. The Bible is literally full of instances and moments of love. We see people connected, wounds healed, and lives changed due to love. Love is the most used word in the Bible, after the names of God. It literally all centers around love. And we, as the church, must center ourselves around this same love.
In light of recent events, we have seen so many people hurt and afraid. We have seen people pushed to desperation and are scared for their lives. We have seen buildings burned and people protesting for the right to be heard. It is an emotional time for everyone. We cannot ignore what is going on in the world. Tweeting out a brief message about how sad you are, how much you support them, or another cliched message is not good enough.
We need to love.
Jesus spoke of love often. And more than spoke it, he lived it. Love moved him. It was no longer an emotion, but an action. Jesus never parted from the idea of love. When children were rebuked, he loved them. When the woman would have been stoned, he loved her. When the Jewish leaders criticized him, he loved them. He never stopped loving. At the moment of his crucifixion, he did nothing but love. He gave hope to the criminal next to him, he joined together a new family, and he forgave those around him. Jesus spent his entire life and, ultimately, chose to die, for love.
And as the main goal of the church is to follow and be like Christ, do we love? Sometimes it is hard to be so blunt, but when it all boils down to it, do you love? What I am about to say might sound really harsh, but just bear with me. Do you love because God is love, or do you love because you never have been in a position where it was questioned? Do you stay within the circle of the church or do you go into the world? Can you remember the last time you had a genuine conversation with someone who might not be saved?
It’s a hard thing to say, and a hard thing to hear, but it is the truth. If you spend your life within the church for fear of world, you are not living as God intended. You cannot claim to be a Christian, to love and serve God, and never go into the world. Yes, we are called to be ‘in the world but not of it’. That verse has been quoted to me many times. But, are you in the world if you never meet the people of the world?
The church has been afraid of scandal and evil for so long, they have closed their doors to avoid it altogether. They have cut themselves off to remain clean. Avoiding all risk, and it is killing the church. The church is dying off because people don’t want to be a part of a cliché. They don’t want to have their lives judged by a group of cynical and hypocritical Christians. We can’t blame people for hating the church, when the church hated them first.
I understand some of you reading this may not agree with what I am saying. But I feel it needs to be said. Being young in the church, I often hear I just have that ‘millennial mindset’. That I don’t know what life is really like yet. Honestly, I don’t really know what that means. I understand the insult, but I also understand what happens when there is a lack of love. And while my goal and desire is to challenge people to grow in Christ, I honestly don’t care about the opinions of Christians. I care about the people broken and hurting.
Martin Luther King Jr said, “Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”. Read that again. Does that resonate with you? I know quoting Reverend King is not a light hearted thing to do. He is now respected, but at the time he said this, he was hated. People did not like what he had to say, but after his assassination he became a historical figure and people refer to his brilliance. But, we treat this man as a piece of art in a museum. We look at it, appreciate it briefly, and move on.
We can no longer afford to move on.
We must love. Plain and simple. Jesus loved, and as we follow Jesus, we must love. And as we love, we must go into the world. We can no longer stand idly by. It’s time to get our hands dirty. Love will change the world. Not overnight, and not all at once. But little by little, love can change everything.
So, my challenge to those reading, is to love. Love your neighbor. Your White, Black, Hispanic, Gay, Straight, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist, Addicted, Homeless, Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican neighbor. If you don’t know how to love, read the stories of Jesus. If you make a mistake, ask for forgiveness and try again. We cannot change the world if we do not first change ourselves. So love one another. And see the impact your love can have in the world.