Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talking going on in my various fellowship circles. Whether it is called a Bible Study, Home Fellowship, Organic Church, Traditional Church, whatever term you want to use, it doesn’t matter to me. It has led me to wonder if the Church is really being THE Church. We find in the Scriptures a very simple, concise definition of how non-believers and believers will be able to recognize followers of Christ. It is the commonly known and quoted verse of John 13:34 – 35.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another
For some reason, the past couple of days my mind has been pulling that verse to the forefront. I would find myself dwelling on it while I was driving. I would find myself wondering if that is what the church I see around me truly embodies. When I say these things, I want to make sure that I am honest about pointing the fingers of condemnation at myself. I am guilty of what I am about to write just as much as I feel the church culture is. I feel as if this thing we call the church has become centered on judging and removed the concept or truth of love from the equation. We have discussions about who’s right and who’s wrong, with the hope and goal of changing another’s mind.
We want to claim that we are correcting “out of love”, but we aren’t. We are correcting out of pride and a desire to have someone see things our way. The way of Christ is one of shouldering the cross and loving through action. Are we loving our brothers and sisters by carrying their cross as Christ carried ours or by telling them how they can better carry theirs? It saddens me to admit that I do not always act out of love for my fellow believer. It saddens me because it means that I am not living out of Christ in those moments.
Somehow from pondering on this verse, I ended up at the question, if Christ acted like we (believers) do today would He have been on the cross in Calvary or would every Pharisee, prideful, sinful person have been put to death by each other? We are in a period of time where if we truly want to see the world get better, we must find a way to love one another. Jesus hated sin, but loved the sinner (cliche but true). When I look around today, I feel like we will argue about the sin, just so that we can continue to condemn and justify passing judgement on the sinner.
Why don’t we attack lying with the same reckless abandon that we attack homosexuality? Why don’t we attack coveting with the same zeal that we go after those who commit abortion (murder)? To me the answer is that if we are truly honest, we ALL lie, we ALL covet, but we don’t all struggle with the other things. We, in our human nature, get to put the sins on a scale of badness to justify our behavior. We want to justify our actions, just as Adam did in the garden (Genesis 3:12 – blame the women – Adam knew he wasn’t supposed to eat the fruit). But we fail to recognize that sin is not about deeds done or not done. Sin is about not being in fellowship with Christ. Sin is about ignoring or no longer hearing the Spirit when it guides.
If we could all see sin in this light, there is no distinction between big sins and little sins…there is simply sin. There is simply “in fellowship” with Christ or not. In fellowship cannot be defined by a set of rules one is following. In fellowship is not about the things that you are or are not doing. In fellowship with Christ can only be defined by living out of the love that Christ has for His Church. That is it. I can be living a perfectly moral life on the outside and feel empty and not be in fellowship with Christ at all (ex. Rich Young Ruler – Mark 10:17 – 22). And you could have lived a life of sin, but in a moment recognize the Lord is in your midst and turn (See Mary and her washing of Jesus’ feet – Luke 7:37 – 44). How they lived their lives did not define them in the Lord’s eyes, but their love for Him did. One of them loved the things of this world and the other desired to sit as Jesus’ feet and have a place in His kingdom.
It is not the do’s and don’ts of our faith that make the kingdom of God real in the here and now, but rather our love for each other and those that the world has rejected that make the kingdom of God real to both the believer and the unbeliever. If people cannot find love in The Church than we are failing to be The Church. We do not have to like, accept, agree with every thought that a brother has or every decision that our neighbor has, but we must strive to love them with the grace that Christ has given to us. We must trust Christ to build His Kingdom here and let Him. He must be the architect of each building and we must be content to be mere living stones, building blocks being placed exactly where he desires us to be. Only then will we truly reflect His vision for His Kingdom, His dwelling place.