Does the person who cut me off on the highway know I am a Christian. Did my one-fingered salute clue him in that I profess to follow Jesus? Do the folks around me at a hockey game experience my love when I loudly disagree with the referee’s call? Does my wife see the love of God displayed in me when I grudgingly agree to help with a project around the house? No, no and no.
Looked at in this light, I am missing by a wide margin the command Jesus gives in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV).
The word love in these verses is God’s all-encompassing love. It is the love given to us that we are to express back to Him and others. Another place in Scripture tells us that, we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
How do I do this? On my own, I can’t. I/we can only exhibit the love of God if it is in us. In order to obey this command, we must believe Jesus to be the Son of God who gave His life for all sinners and was raised from the dead to give the final victory over death.
Ok, I do believe that; why then do I have trouble obeying this command? The answer comes down to understanding the sacrificial nature of Jesus love. More than understanding, I must become willing to supplant my wishes in favor of others. That means I have to grow to be less selfish as I live my faith out.
Allow me to share some insight into what I see as the lack of appeal in today’s Christian to the outside world. My current ministry has me visiting different churches in our area as I fill in for vacationing pastors or as I help my wife lead worship when there is a need. These churches have some things in common. One, the people that are there seem genuinely glad to be there. Second, there aren’t many of them. The churches we help out at always seem to be more than half, if not two thirds, empty.
Why is this? Why are there more empty seats than warm bodies present on any given Sunday (except for Easter and Christmas)? The answer, as I see it, is that going/belonging to a church has lost its appeal. What has happened in the relatively short period of time from the commitment of my parent’s generation to weekly attendance to the mass exodus from church today? I understand we live in a busier world today, with each of us seemingly being pulled in multiple directions constantly and that Sunday morning for many is the only chance to catch up on sleep. There is also soccer and hockey and a myriad of other activities going on these days that never were on help on Sunday morning before.
Ok, I get it; folks are busy, stressed, or just too tired to even think about church. This has resulted in a generation of people who are not necessarily anti-Christianity, they simply have not had any exposure to what a life of faith is all about. The majority of this group has formed their opinion of what a Christian is based on how it is portrayed on television sit-coms.
This my fellow-believers, is our fault. Somehow, in the busyness of our own lives, we have lost the attractiveness of what being a Christian should be. Many of us, myself included, tend to ‘love others’ at our convenience. In so doing and ever so subtlety, we have traded the command to love everyone for the desire to love ourselves first. Said another way, once our wants our met, we can see to the needs of others.
When we profess faith in Christ, yet live with a ‘me first’ attitude, we fail miserably at obeying the Lord’s command to love others. Our love of self limits our ability to experience the love God gives us. With this restricted flow of heaven-sent love in us, we become far less appealing to the hurting world around us.
If we find ourselves falling into this trap, there is but one way out; ask God to forgive us our selfishness and restore to us the joy of His salvation. This allows us to see our relationship to our Creator more clearly. As we do, we bring our weakness in to the light; His light!
Remember, God is not a about condemnation when we screw-up. What He is always doing is inviting us to enjoy a deeper life of fellowship with Him. As we accept this invitation, we will find our ‘wants’ list to be greatly reduced in size as we realize our utmost need is being met. Living in this freedom then allows more of the Father’s love to flow in to us, thus making us better able to love the world around us. That appeals to me and it is what will make the life of obedience to Jesus appeal to others.
It’s simple really, just not easy. But it is so wonderfully worth it! Let’s all make today the day we will take the Lord’s command to heart and love others as He has loved us. In this way we can best make our appeal to those who don’t know Him yet. For my part, I will pray blessings on that next driver who cuts me off, I’ll acknowledge the referees good work at the hockey game and joyfully join with my wife in our next project.