"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
It's that simple! If you love, you know God. If you don't love, you don't know God.
So, the world should know the church by what characteristic most? Well, I'll throw a suggestion out there. Perhaps, love.
But surveys show that the first thing unbelievers say about us isn't "You know what bothers me most about Christians? They're just too loving!"
Now, I know, I know. I can just hear some Christians begging me to define love before this gets out of hand. I can just hear some saying, "But love means loving people enough to tell them the truth! It's not loving to let someone perish without letting them know they are in error."
True, but can we just admit that's not exactly the gospel's best definition of love? 1 Corinthians 13 doesn't harp on love being a trait of judging people's eternal destiny. It's more about patience, kindness, and humility...words that rarely get thrown out in discussions about truth. (Save your breath. I know some of you want me to point out that love rejoices in the truth...I'm way ahead of you.)
I'm concerned about the church. But not for our lack of truth...for our lack of love.
Let's face it: In some churches, the longer you go to church, the crankier you get. Ask any of your preachers. I don't have a desk full of angry letters from people under the age of fifty (now I've created more hate because I've defined what it means to be old).
It seems to me that if our churches are spiritually forming people into the image of Jesus, then people who had been in church longest would be the most loving. Let me be honest, that's not always the case.
And I'm not really pointing the finger at our members. I think it's the fault of our leaders. Christians certainly bear some responsibility. But our churches must not exactly be love factories partly because our focus has been on perfect doctrine to the detriment of our loving lives.
The moment one is baptized ought to be the moment a Christian loved least. The love chart ought to be a quick upward trend following that moment.
Perhaps we ought to check the water for more than its temperature because it's not bring the desired outcome when it comes to love.
In the past three weeks, I've had three conversations with people who are upset because of my recent preaching and blogging. All three of those conversations have to do with the dialectic between love and truth.
I get it, we need to pursue truth. But not at the cost of love.
They will know we are Christians by our love. Love is the name on our jersey. It's the name we go by.
I'm just not so sure the world knows it yet?