Brethren, what should distinguish us from the world around us is how we love those who agree with us…and those who don’t. AS Christians we should love those who despise us (our enemies) (Matthew 5:44). It shouldn’t be difficult to tell who the Christians are in the neighborhood or at work. Have you ever known the reason why the Christians around the world are not known for their love?
Instead, Christians lack love and are seen by most as judgmental, by many as hateful, and by only a few as readily identifiable in a crowd. I agree that the church is influenced by the culture rather than the church influencing the culture. No wonder the Church, at large, is doing some great philanthropic stuff. But, the example of Christ is largely missing. The Biblical model is missing. Christ is missing.
Love is something we do – not just something we feel. Biblical love is a little bit hard. According to 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4 it describes a love that is quite the opposite of our carnal worldly love. Jesus modelled a love that defies explanation. Christ’s love, which is the Greatest Commandment calls us to show:
Unconditional love for God and others without expectations or strings attached.
Mercy just the same way Jesus healed, fed and forgave at every opportunity. Jesus showed compassion toward the poor, sick and lost – not just in words, but also in actions.
Selflessness according to Philippians 2 associates love with putting the interests of others above our own, to learn to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Luke 28: 27, 29
Sacrifice for instance What if a friend died to save you? How would you live differently from that point on? How would you act toward your (deceased) friend’s family to show your appreciation? In that light, the fact that Christ died for us should encourage Christians to a life of generosity, showing our love for Him and His children.
Obedience according to John 14:23 says that “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.… Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching”. Obedience and love are connected closely.
Forgiveness according to Luke 7:47says “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Remember If we realized just how many sins Jesus has forgiven for us, we would not be so quick to judge others. “’Now which of them will love him more?’…Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’” (Luke 7:42-43)
How Does Modern day Christians Define “Love”?
Most Christians today see love as something we feel rather than something we do. Since Gods true love seem unattainable for most of them, they settle for a lesser form of love:
Friend”Phileo” love – This brotherly love is found in the warmth and affection between friends but it can be conditional and never extends to those we do not like.
Family” Storge” love providing for our families at the expense of all others. Parents have no time to care for poor because they’re working late nights all week to finance a desired quality of life for their families. It leaves little room for God’s pure love.
Romantic”Eros”love– Our TV, radio and Internet “airwaves” are filled with references to it, it endorses and encourages premarital sex.
Tolerance love– Under the guise of love, compassion and justice, society defends the right of each and every individual to determine his/her own moral compass and rejects anyone who defers to a higher moral authority than themselves.
Freedom love– Nowadays, any attempts by Christians to point out sin is seen as judgmental – a form of hate, not love. Although enslaved to sin, non-believers demand to remain free from the imposition of Christian values, truth or morality. In the name of “love” (by their definition), they love and defend self at all costs.
Emotions love– Ask most non-Christians to define “love” and you are likely to hear descriptions of feelings and human emotions, not the action-oriented version in 1 Corinthians.
Social Justice love – Most people view love as fighting for human rights, which they believe Christians frequently violate (by advocating Biblical standards of behavior).
Love comes from the one true God, not from the world. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Apart from Christ, the society can only offer a counterfeit, cheap imitations of love under all forms.
Why the world around us doesn’t see us Christians as loving?
Most people nowadays have a distorted view of love. Christians do not live according to the secular definition of love, so we don’t appear loving when looked at through that filter. Are we as Christians doing those components of love well found in 1 Corinthian 13? If not, then we’re not living out society’s definition of love – or ours.
The Bible says our love for one another should shock, amaze, and attract non-believers to Christ.
In other words, society expects Christians to love like them or to show them what true love looks like. But if believers don’t exhibit either the version of “love” that society espouses or that Christ modelled, then they will be loving in a way that others do not understand or appreciate. In that event, we can expect a continued decline in Church growth, influence, impact and perception in our nation. The segue away from the Biblical definition of love began as institution-building replaced disciple-building in recent decades.
“Church” came to be known as a place with evangelism entrusted primarily to “professionals” and members tasked only with inviting people to come to an “event”. To attract and retain members, church leaders lowered expectations and no longer held members to the Great Commission mandate. Rather than equipping disciples to go out (and follow Jesus’ example of leading with compassion and then telling them who He is), the focus shifted internally – as did the objects of our “love”.
Accordingly, society observes the allegiance Christians have to their particular church, pastor and fellow members, but not their Unity (as one universal body), Forgiveness (of those who think differently) or Mercy (for those in need or oppressed):
Are We United? – The world sees our splits, factions and denominations. However, it is not seeing much collaboration across churches around causes of great importance within our cities. Nor are we demonstrating love for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering around the globe.
Are We Forgiving? – Our lack of unity spills over into a perceived self-righteousness and judgmentalism toward those outside of our immediate congregation, inadvertently redefining “neighbour” by confining love to a narrower audience than Jesus intended.
Are We Merciful? – Even within our church families, we aren’t modelling the love and sacrifice that led the church in Acts to sell their possessions to ensure no one suffered for lack of food or clothes. Churches in America no longer lead the way in caring for the poor outside of their “4 walls” as they did for 1900 years when churches were the food bank and homeless shelter.
Love is action, not just words. Love is the essence of our faith. The perception of Christians will change when our love of God extends and overflows naturally and unconditionally beyond our fellow believers to all mankind. The culture war raging in parts of the world today can only be won when churches stop building institutions that tend to fight an air war (dropping verbal bombs) and start building disciples who engage in a ground war using love and compassion as their chosen weapons.
It’s Your Turn brethren…
Are there any other reasons why you believe society does not associate church or Christians with the word “love”? What can be done to restore that reputation and lead more people back toward Jesus? Think and act quickly souls are perishing.