What is Love?
As Christians we often find ourselves asking the same question as Haddaway: What is love? The default answer of course is “God” for those philosophical, deep Christians who tend to lean on the poetic side. They often go around saying God is love, which is true! Do not get me wrong, but looking at the Christian community and how we express our “love” for one another, I think it is time for a more comprehensive answer. Better yet, we need to be asking a different question:
What does a loving Christian community look like?
Let me make the answer and agenda clear here–UNITED (Colossians 3:14/ see “verses” page).
This remark can be taken at a small scale, looking at individual congregations and parishes, or at a larger scale for Christians in general. Virtuous love brings about a togetherness that makes people inseparable; it makes them willing to sacrifice even when that means compromising comfort for the betterment of others. A perfect illustration is seen in God’s love for us in sending His son so that we may receive redemption to be CLOSER to Him. Notice that love changes your original state. You do not simply remain, but you’re drawn CLOSER, UNITED, no longer in separation if you get my drift. When you commit to God, you commit to loving His community and others as He does. This means attempting to love EVERY Christian equally as you love yourself. Talk about a pride blaster when you think of how incompetent we might be at loving or even thinking of anyone outside of our immediate family or friendship circles.
One may be overwhelmed at the thought of how much energy it must take to serve and devote time to as many people as we encounter. Some might even be convicted as they realize their judgement of other Christians out weigh their love for the Christian community. Don’t think this is you? Create a list of “hypocrites who mar Christianity’s name”. Now create a list of Christians who are not your immediate friends or family that you prayed for this week (Prayer is important people, but of course I’m not judging!) The good news is that we are not perfect, and it is not God’s intent for us to pray for every single name in the phone book (an artifact that I am sure will be obsolete soon). But He does offer just the right amount of challenge with those we come across in our daily lives, or those we are called to actively seek out (Yes, God may not drop them all in front of you, but may require you to go find certain people or particular groups).
Nevertheless, this love is necessary to establish complete unity among us. Unity is not given as a gift; we actually have to work and love (yes love is also an action verb) to establish and keep it, obviously a task we cannot do without God’s help! Yet, still some will argue that we should focus less on “Christian bonding”, and instead channel our love to nonbelievers. They should consider 1 Timothy 5:8:
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ESV
The premise of this reference is that we need to cater to our households, including spiritual households as well, first. What does this look like?
–a willingness to help and serve others. On a small scale this may mean chipping in to take care of a family in need in the congregation. On a large scale this may mean dedicating funds or resources to another churches in need regardless of denomination.
–praying for other Christians and churches. This might require a little effort of seeing what missions and ministries other churches are committed to and promoting and praying for those. This can be the congregation of another family member or one your church frequently interacts with. Also, we can simple pray for fellow brothers and sisters.
–hosting more joint events. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if someone else has something going on or a ministry in place. We as Christians should not be afraid to work together in promoting and responding to similar causes. Like in any loving relationship, we should be willing to work together.
–having respect for one another. While we are still in a stage where Christians embrace different doctrinal beliefs, it is important to let our love be balanced with our discernment for each other. At no point should we ever treat each other as unequal or as if our beliefs make us better. This attitude may be hard for those that like to be right. Newsflash: Only God is completely righteous. It is His job to judge. Your job is to be obedient and “love thy neighbor as thyself” (in Old English at the courtesy of King James).
–having compassion for other Christians. It might be hard to have feelings about or for other Christians who are different from you or who you may view as immoral or misguided. If they are trying to love and follow Christ, it is your job to willingly encourage them in their journey and to grow. This does not mean turn into a control freak and try to change them. It means rejoicing in their growth, mourning with them in their failings, and when one feels led, providing LOVING guidance. No matter who the believer is, we should have excitement and interest in others’ walks. This compassion helps drive prayer, making us feel closer to one another.
–having a willingness to be uncomfortable. To love means going outside of your comfort zone for someone. We have to willingly embrace discomfort. This means being willing to support a friend who may need a buddy to church hop with until they find a home church even if they do choose “the crazy churches”. It means not frowning when a Catholic, Baptist, or a Pentecostal invites you to their church for a special ceremony or event to support them. It means being WILLING.
I can tell you what love does not look like–division, self-righteousness, and total comfort. The list is a whole lot longer (see 1 Corinthians 13). The opposite of love is fear. So if those points seem challenging, be willing to slay your fear in order to love in away that draws all Christians together, not letting us remain simply where we are.
Christians, we got a whole lot of moving closer to do.
Join the movement.
Don’t just remain.
Love creates change!
“Challenging you to be challenged by God”