Was it easy or hard for Christians to love others, especially other Christians? And what helped them to love other Christians, besides prayer?

Posted: September 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

I don’t know about “was”; people don’t change, really; and God’s word is a Rock, unmovable, unshakable. Times, circumstances, and cultures, however, do change. One of the great things about the Christian faith is that it transcends all of those things, and even penetrates them. The reality is that the more comfortable a people’s existence, the more difficult it is to remain true to the ideals of the faith. The Christians of the early church were united by a very strong, common bond: the threat of persecution and death. Up until the 1800s, virtually every Christian community on earth lived and worshiped under some kind of authoritarian rule, quite often lives that were in direct conflict with their leaders. The founder of the faith suffered the ultimate penalty for what he taught; such was the norm for the next 1800 years or so, and still is in much of the world. When your pastor or deacon is being beaten to death or your family is about to be burned alive, everlasting love may be the only thing that sees you through.

The church in the west hasn’t the “luxury” of persecution; thus, our comfort has become paramount, not the spreading of the gospel, not living lives worthy to be called “Christian.” We are often at each others’ throats for trivial matters, issues that will have no lasting value beyond the grave…or even the next election cycle. I recently read a newsletter by a minister friend in which he describes a fellow pastor who told his congregation, “Virginity is not the gospel.” A man in the congregation immediately stood and directed his family to leave, “That’s it,” he said, “We’ve had enough.” The pastor’s point was that we tend to focus on peripheral things, things that may be important*, but not Gospel, to the exclusion of the more important ones. Jesus made this point in his denunciations of the Pharisees, among which was the one where he criticized them for emphasizing tithing at the expense of the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former,” he told them. The pastor was right; keeping one’s self sexually pure is important, but it is not the gospel. Guess what? Patriotism isn’t the gospel, either.

Our church experiences today are divided by class, economics, race (less now than in the past, thanks be to God!), politics, even age. I have been to secular events, like rock concerts, where young people thought it was “cool” that an “old dude” like me would be in attendance. Talk my ears off! At a church gathering, though, like a college cook out, I’m a “creepy old guy,” avoided like the plague. Every age group in most churches is partitioned off into their own compartments, and they dare not “mix.”

All that said, the church has always had to deal with divisions, gossip, infighting, backbiting, etc. Jesus warned of this from the beginning (parable of the wheat and the tares) and Paul spent more than a little time addressing it. What is the standard, though? What is the requirement when it comes to love to which Christians are supposed to aspire? Well, Read 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It is not just hard to live up to this standard, it is impossible, which is why, of all the Christian virtues, humility should be the one that sets us apart most  noticeably. WE cannot do it, but Christ can, through us: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

* I believe and counsel virginity, chastity, celibacy if a Christian is not married, but I am not against providing kids with potentially life saving options if they, to me foolishly, choose sexual activity. Anthony Bourdain, who committed suicide June 9, 2018, once said, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” He ended his amusement ride, and he was wrong, at least in the case of Christians. Our bodies ARE temples, and they are not ours to do with whatever we want. Still, if kids choose to act foolishly, immorally, they should still be protested from any avoidable consequences.

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