I’m preparing to attend Quest Church Planter Training Intensive, a three day training around new church starts. A part of the pre-training preparation includes the reading of “A New Testament Trilogy”. I’ve not yet completed the book, but the following quote leapt out at me.
“The homogeneous church is not a picture of heaven but of earth dwellers who find it hard to relate to those who are different. Loving those like you, as worthy as it is, is not an award-winning activity. Jesus made it clear that even the Pharisees greet those that greet them. Or as Dallas Willard boldly asserts, the Mafia is nice to those that are nice to them. Loving those who are not like you and even those who abuse you and use you (Matthew 5:48) requires a supernatural Jesus-like love. This kind of love can only come from the person of the Holy Spirit in yielded hearts that long to reflect the truth and grace of God and exists between the persons of the Trinity. Maybe this has something to do with why the Church is America is so impotent to change our cities and communities. The love we employ is natural and centered more on the self than upon God, geared more towards personal fulfillment than the extension of God’s Kingdom, and tends to decline when not received, rewarded, or acknowledged. In this respect we are much more like the world in our practices and lifestyles. That is, those who have a sense of morality in the world.” A New Testament Trilogy, Our God, Ourselves, Our Community. Tom Johnston & Mike Chong Perkinson, pp.31-32.
Does this describe your church, your walk with God. I’ve seen it at work in many churches. We’ve learned to love those who are like us. Some congregations are very good at loving each other, but those who are unlike us, that is a more difficult proposition.
1. Imagine you came to church next week and someone was sitting in your pew (I know most of us have a regular pew). Your choice is to sit somewhere else or share the pew with this stranger. Imagine the kind of person with whom you would choose to share the pew. Imagine the kind of person with whom you would choose to sit somewhere else. In this scenario it is not an option to ask the person to move (even though I’ve heard and even witnessed such actions).
This could be a simple test of love. Are we willing to love them, not from afar, but right up close, shoulder to shoulder? By loving I do not mean a warm, fuzzy feeling, but a way of acting, behaving that is accepting, welcoming and caring.
My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. We are now God's children, and we know him. God is love, and anyone who doesn't love others has never known him… But if we say we love God and don't love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don't love the people we can see?