Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Because He First Loved Us: Love God, Love People

Posted By: Noelle Thompson
Loving God and loving people sounds easy, right? Sure we don’t always get along with or particularly enjoy other people. But we love others because Christ first loved us, so we carry out his love for us to our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family members. Or so we think.

I would hope that these messages would convict you as much as they weighed heavily on my own heart. I would consider myself shy and quiet, but friendly and generally loving towards others. We are all given spiritual gifts, but what we may not realize is that certain characteristics aren’t trademarks of ourselves – they’re trademarks of the church.

1 John 4:19-20 "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

The rebellious church kid in me doesn’t always understand this, especially when I let my pride overtake me and stubbornly think, “But I don’t feel like it…” I grew up in church, I went to Sunday school, and I knew the church elders and did everything in my power to please them and God (in that order). But that’s not the kind of church Paul wrote about in Acts.

Acts 2:42-47 "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

When I think of this church Paul describes, I think of how much enjoyment and delight everyone takes in the Lord and each other (in that order). My love for the church is an outpouring of gratitude for Christ’s love for me. I revel in his joy when I see others reveling in his love for them. It’s a cyclic relationship that begins the day we accept Christ into our life. It only ends the day we choose to follow our flesh; our earthly desires that feed us lies. We are not called to follow leaders blindly; we can certainly hold each other accountable. But something to remember – something that took years for me to understand – was that we don’t become members of the church of our own strength. Not that we don’t have to submit any energy whatsoever, but the nature of Christ’s love will be evident in us as we grow in our relationship with him. We don’t bear one another’s burdens without a God-given pile of patience; we don’t honor one another above ourselves a servant’s heart; we don’t build one another up without God’s zeal; and we certainly don’t submit to one another without a heaping dose of humility. If we attempt these things without God, we are only fooling ourselves and we make ourselves out to be liars. God never commanded, “If it’s something you’re good at, then love others,” or “If you feel like it, love other people,” or “If it’s easy and convenient for you, love others.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in the church Paul described, and I would hope and pray that everyone else would as well. The blessed thing is that this is not some unrealistic expectation God has for his people – it happened. It’s happening right now. And, with great prayer and zeal, it continues.