Thursday, September 11, 2014

In The Name Of Love

Earlier this week I posted a series of quotes from First and Second Century Christians about how following Jesus means turning away from violence and embracing the transformational love of Jesus. At the end of that series I said, “Early Christians would never dream of using violence, but for Christians today it’s our first response. What happened?”

You’d think that this would have inspired people to reflect along with me why the Christian church once embraced the commands of Jesus to love our enemies, but you’d be wrong. Instead what followed was a very long debate with Christians who rejected this idea of enemy love – even though it was an idea from the mouth of Jesus – and for the next few days I was asked to explain why it would be expected to obey Jesus if there was an invader in my home, or why this Jesus stuff didn’t stop Hitler, or why God seems to use violence (and therefore it should be ok for us too), and why this idea of enemy love shouldn’t be taken seriously unless I am personally willing to relocate my family to Gaza or Iraq.

No, I’m not making this stuff up.

So, once again, let me ask: What happened to the Christian faith? How did we go from unwavering obedience to the commands of Jesus to love our enemies, bless them who curse us, do good to those who persecute us, and giving food and water to our enemy if they are hungry or thirsty, to calling down fire from heaven on anyone who might dare to threaten us?

Two things happened: First, the Christian church slowly became convinced that being a Christian was more about agreement with a set of doctrines and less about actually practicing the commands of Jesus. Secondly, the Christian church – at roughly the same time – became entangled with the Empire or nation of origin. This meant that being a Christian also became entangled with being a patriot for whichever nation one was born into. Therefore the goals of the State became the goals of the Christian, and the Church began to work hand-in-hand with politicians to justify going to war with those who oppose our national interests.

I’m torn between wanting to help Christians today understand the “How we got here” part of the narrative and wanting to help them simply “Follow Jesus” apart from any Nationalistic tendencies or allegiances.

On the one hand, it’s really all about simply following Jesus in your daily life. If you take that part seriously, and if you are deeply committed to obeying Jesus today – right now – in your actual life – then you won’t need to necessarily understand how the rest of the Church got so screwed sideways. You’ll simply wrestle with Jesus’ commands to forgive others, love those who are not easy to love, serve the people around you, and yes, even turn the other cheek.

On the other hand, it’s very easy to fool yourself into thinking that you already are following Jesus if you don’t recognize the difference between what everyone else around you seems to be doing – i.e. loving those who love you back and hating those who aren’t like you – and taking a stand against that mediocrity to live a radical life of extravagant love.

Essentially, I believe what’s missing today in this entire equation is simply this: “Love”.

We are not filled with the love of Christ, therefore we cannot share the love of Christ with others.

Yes, we need to understand the importance of discipleship to Christ. That’s the mechanism that helps us to understand our mission.

Yes, we need to understand that Christianity was once something so uncomfortably loving that what passes for Christianity today would be largely unrecognizable to those early Christians.

But the bottom line is really just that we need to know what love is. We need to remember that it was the transformational love of Jesus we experienced in the beginning that opened our eyes to the Kingdom in the first place. We need to return to Jesus on our knees and ask Him to fill us anew with that same audacious love. Not just because we need to give it away to others (because we do), but first and foremost because we need His love. I need it. You need it. We all need to be transformed – once again – by His awesome love. We need to be captivated by it again. We need to have our breath taken from us again as our heart’s overflow with the love that transcends knowledge.

What if the Christian church in America were awestruck once more by the eternal supernova of unstoppable love that flows unceasing from the heart of Jesus into each and every one of us?

What if that same tsunami of love were to fill us up, and spill out all over our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends?

What if we could love the way Jesus loves? What if we could serve the way Jesus serves? What if we could forgive the way Jesus forgives?

I think that’s the point. I think Jesus is looking for a people He can pour Himself into, by His Spirit. He wants someone who will be His hands, His feet, His voice, His heart, to a world that is desperate for love incarnate and grace unspeakable.

Will we be that person? Are we interested in taking that first step into the endless deep of His love?

I hope so. It’s the only hope this world – or you and I – really have left.


“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)

1 comment:

the alternative1 said...

the problem with people who call themselves Christians is the fact that most are not really what they claim they are--Christianity is not what you say you believe but what kind of life is coming out of you.the proof is in the pudding.what tree are you eating from?