I Love My Church [4/30/18]
There are places we dread and maybe can do without: a visit to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), a regular check-up at the dentist, or a trip to the market to buy groceries for the week. Contrary to popular demand, well, you can’t just do without them. These are places we go not necessarily because we want to, but because we have to. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “I love those places. I would go more often if I could.”
Recently, my wife was stuck at the DMV for over 6 hours simply to renew her driver’s license. Her goal was to get in and get out. She told me a funny story of a woman who came into the DMV that morning, drew a number, waited and then being able to wait no longer went to work. After work, she returned to see if she could take care of unfinished business only to have her number called as she walked in through those doors! Maybe that’s the way to do it.
I wonder if people have the same feelings of aversion to church as they do to a place like the DMV. It’s not supposed to be the same. The church is something that God calls us to love. But, loving the church is not the same as loving a restaurant. When I go to a restaurant I experience something given to me. It feeds me and provides a space in which I could participate. If the experience itself was excellent, I could rate it as so, give it a positive review on Yelp, and recommend it to others. And if the opposite, I don’t have to return and could tell others to avoid it. This sets up expectations for the church that it was never intended to fulfill.
The church was never meant to be like a restaurant; it’s meant to be based on
relationships. This begins first and foremost in a relationship with Jesus, and through that relationship we connect to one another. It’s not a place so much as it is the people who gather in that space. When we treat the church like a restaurant, it becomes more consumer-focused and self-focused instead of relationship-focused. The way we love our church is supposed to be similar to the way we love our children, our spouse, or our parents.
Jesus says in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus was saying that love is the most distinguishing characteristic of those who follow Him. Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian values. He saw this virtue as the most important of all virtues when it comes to our public witness.
In what way was this command new?
1) First, it was new in its extent. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus extended the definition of neighbor and love to go beyond color, creed or class. He even went as far as telling us to love our enemy. How much more so for one another, the church.
2) Second, it was new in its example. Jesus says, “As I have loved you.” It’s because He first loved us that we should love as Jesus loved us. The sacrificial work of Christ on the cross is the “new” standard for the Christian’s love for one another.
How difficult is it to love? It is more difficult than you think. In a broken, fallen, selfish, self-promoting, self-appreciating, self-serving world, it’s very difficult, if not impossible. It was Jesus who laid aside His life so that we can have life. He exemplified it perfectly. And so Jesus showed them exactly how to do it, how to love, and how to give one’s life away.
And when you begin to love and live your life much like the way Jesus so beautifully exemplified it, the world will see the amazing source of love that only God can give. The world will know.
Why love? Why is love so important? Because it displays to the world what a loving God we believe. That’s why. The world does not know a love like this.
Show me a church where there is love, and I will show you a church that is a power in the community. Do you love your church?