Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35, 38-39
As I live my life with the purpose of knowing God and making him known, I look for opportunities, even if ever so brief, to get people thinking about God. Today while running I saw an older gentleman ahead of me on the path around my neighborhood. He was walking briskly, carrying his water bottle. As I approached him I simply sensed the love of God for him. When I caught up to him, I said “Good morning” so as not to startle him. Then I pronounced a blessing on him “May the love of God embrace you today.” He received it gratefully and returned the blessing.
It was a simple gesture, for sure, but our words have more power than we know. I felt good about myself. And, sure a blessing is a nice gesture. But, actions speak louder than words. How had I really improved his life?
The very next song on my playlist was “Loved” by Kutless.
The chorus affirms:
I’m loved, by the One who’s seen the corners of my soul,
I’m loved, by the One who reaches out and calls me home,
so loved, by the One who chose to give up His life,
I may never know how deep and how wide, I’m loved.
Because we see through a glass darkly (I Corinthians 13:12, found in the “Love” chapter), we do not fully appreciate just how much God loves us. Then I began to think, how does God show us that he loves us? We Christians know in history that love drove Jesus, the incarnate God, to die in our place to take the punishment for our sins. “But, God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God shows us his love by demonstrating it.
We sense special blessings that give our lives joy. We, as Christians, attribute those special blessings to God. But, we live in a physical world and we do not understand all of reality. Christians can hardly comprehend the unseen spiritual realm, much less can those who are lost. So how will those who are lost know the love of God? I came to realize that God most often demonstrates his love through the people in his Church. How can a dying world know the love of God? When God’s people show them love while they are yet sinners.
A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought the purpose of the Church is. I thought about it for a few seconds. The scriptural passage that came to mind was the one about the Great Commission. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. The Church has not done a very good job of making disciples. We are good at making converts with our emotional appeals during Sunday morning “therapy” sessions we call “worship.” The melodic music and the sweet lyrics generate an emotional response in the seeker that produces a hope for a better life. But, what happens when the music is done, the benediction is complete, and the service is over? The emotions dissipate like the effects of a dream. They go home to the same hunger, financial needs, loneliness.
Don’t get me wrong. Sure, people have emotional needs. But, they also have intellectual needs. They need more than to only feel emotionally good about the love of the Father. They need to intellectually know it. So when the emotions fade and hard times come, the truth of God’s love will remain. We as a Church need to demonstrate the love of the Father more than simply telling people about the love of the Father. We will do a better job of making disciples by demonstrating love than simply saying “God loves you, be at peace.” The unloved, the needy, the widow, the orphans have physical needs that we are commanded to meet. We must not look to fulfill our obligation through the coercive power of government because our welfare system is not charity. It is actually theft. We must meet needs through the Church sacrificing ourselves, going to the least of these, and getting dirty. That is pure and undefiled religion before God the Father. James 1:27. That is the first step in making disciples.
“Oh, bless me, lord!
Bless me, lord!”
You know, it’s all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear
But, he cries,
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in
Oh, can’t you see such sin?
’cause he brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
“God bless you!
Be at peace!”
And all heaven just weep,
’cause Jesus came to your door,
You’ve left him out on the street.
This post is also directed to me. What have I done to help the least of these? I need to be obedient to the commands of Christ instead of making excuses. I must have the attitude, no matter how much I’ve given, and sacrificed, that what I have done is not enough and I need to do more.