Wednesday, September 2

The Church of the P.F.Y.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18 (New International Version)

It is one of the ‘culturally acceptable’ ways to get out of having to go outside your comfort zone for someone else… act like you are actually concerned and want nothing but the best for the person who comes across your path who is struggling. It is one I’ve faced in the recently ended season of my life….and why I’ve come from Holly to Canton…..when faced with someone who has a need, a struggle or difficulty… whisper:

“I’ll pray for you.”

And then nothing is done… memory to pray for that person comes to your mind as you offer up prayers for your family, your finances, your job and that enough people will ‘pony up’ so that the seats needed for the worship center can be purchased outright. You’ve forgotten the prompting of the Spirit that led you to offer to look for people within the ‘family’ who might be able to address the need, contact businesses that you have a relationship with to see if the need can be addressed in a way to help alleviate the burden that has been placed upon the person you’ve said, “I’ll pray for you…..” to.

Nothing gets done, and the person feels rejected…alone…and afraid. Pettiness, perceived grudges, real slights and hurts that develop into anger and causes the person to reject the Gospel message because the church, represented supposedly by individually redeemed souls, has forgone the commission in favor of worldly things. And it is so easy to fix this situation before it becomes a source of corruption and decay within the Body…..

Prompt action, candidness, clearing the air and moving step by step….not just to address the need but to bring that person into a place where the situation is truly resolved….as I’ve said before….not only teaching a person to fish, but making sure they have the right equipment, developed skill and self-image to achieve continuous and effective fishing. Mentorship, discipleship and friendship…..such easy things to give, most of the time, but harder and harder to maintain as time, money and personal investment are required.

Instead, we get to a point where “I will pray for you” is the leadership line, the ministry tag and the flippant remark we throw up in the face of the burdened…..slang for, “I don’t want to help you. You need too much, or You shouldn’t be experiencing this.”

We usurp God’s declaration, minimize Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and reject those who may be the workers in the revival to come before the end of days. Maybe even reject the angels who have come at God’s prompting to test us…..and fulfill the word of Christ who said, “I came hungry, without clothes and nothing to drink and you sent Me on my way (paraphrased).” If we treat our brethren this way, do we not also reject Christ….for we are all supposed to be the ‘children of God,’ part of the same family. It is the ‘Church’ that seems to have the most problems resolving such conflicts in a clean and happy way where harmony is restored.

We repeat the example set by Cain and Abel….the first family rift that became two distinct and separate families….that still feud against each other to this day. Abel; the example of righteous living, love, pity, righteous conduct and fellowship and Cain; evil, death, murder, hate, unrighteous conduct and hostility towards the truth.

One represents the commandment ‘from the beginning’ (John says earlier in his writing) to love one another… so clearly defined by Christ, who represented the love of the Father and whom all who are ‘born of God, living in the light’ are to reflect into the family of God. We cannot reflect God’s righteousness if we do not love as Christ loved….not to ‘the best of our ability’ but beyond the reasonable expectation of human ability into the realm of where God is primary and our own ‘agenda’ is mute.

There is no….”do your best” but rather….feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless. Not according to your comfort but rather with the degree of compassion that lead Christ to be put upon a Cross of pain and suffering for the sins of humanity who even as He walked among them rejected Him and tortured Him.
Of course, some would point to the passages before this as an example of the more ‘obedient to God’ the “church” is, the more discord and disconnection to the world it would experience…and justify the inaction, rejection and laziness that caused the conflict in the first place….alienating the ‘problem child’ as unsaved….evidenced by the continued struggles.

We judge the heart, ‘which no man can truly know’, and decide what God will do in the situation for Him. Much like Cain did, which led to the distinction of being the first of many murderers in the family…..and set a generational conflict that exists in the world today.

Does the Church represent today the unparallel love as represented by Abel and lived by Christ today or does it look more like Cain? Is the love for ‘its’ brother conditional on what it feels it can do, the offering that was rejected by God, and more ‘understandable’ in a worldly sense and therefore more representative of the world of the dead? Does the actions of the ‘church’ rob the brethren of life? Does it look upon the ‘problem children’ as burdens unfairly cast upon its shoulders, too many with too few resources, or does it look at them as opportunities to live the life that Christ empowers it, dare I say commands it to live, by His example?

It is not by our buildings, our worship style or even our programs that we are assured of our being in relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit….it is not the size of the congregation, the impact of our sermons or the amount of tithe that are weekly gathered that shows how ‘biblical’ the congregation is. Nor is it the amount of opposition to a vision, a plan or a preacher that represents our proximity to God……

John tells us that we will experience, as the church left by Christ in the hands of His followers, hostility with the world simply because of conflicting loyalties and values and the attempt by the world to dissuade the children of God from the commitment to God. The challenge facing the church, to which it has failed in the modern day, is to discern between opposition that is God-inspired because of a wrong undertaking or from the evilness of the Cainian world.

As Matthew Henry says, “While the world's hostility is to be expected, it is not to be made a badge of the quality of our Christian life.” Whereas the love of one’s brother will lead to an Abelian offering of their first fruits, regardless of the attraction, desire or comfort of using it for oneself will lead to life-giving, the Cainian offering of ‘okay’ fruits that protect that attraction, desire and comfort for oneself leads to the murder of one’s brother.

Love for one another shows our separation from the world, the distinction between self-protection and living to die for one another and brings an undeniable testimony of how much we have experienced the love of God for us, developed in our understanding of God’s character and our discipleship under the self-giving love obediently lived through the commandments of Christ.

Love is not a simple expression of compassion, uttered too quickly in the form of ‘pray for you,’ but lived in the transformational, illogical (by the world’s standards) example that sets forth the fertile grounds for the transforming power of God to work in our lives, the lives of those who we interact with and even within the walls of the church.

It is the words of the ‘beloved’ apostle of Christ, one of the three closest to the Messiah, that undeniably sets the definition of love…..set forth in two distinct and conjoined statements as set forth by Christ’s sacrifice.

It is the example for us, as followers of Christ, to follow…undeniable and active, not merely words or thoughts but a lifestyle lived in the face of human self-protection.

It is the revelation of the extent of God’s love for us….though we were in sin, and rejected the source of our salvation, God was faithful in His provision to provide a way for us to know Him, have life and live a abundant life in the arms of His love.
Neither is something that can be simply admired, celebrated and cheered. It must be lived….

A person who stands upon the ship and tosses a life preserver overboard, turning to you and saying, “I’d save you if you were drowning.” It doesn’t mean much while you are safely standing upon the deck, secure and dry. So does the comment, “I’ll pray for you.”

But, if you are at the mercy of the sea and he jumps overboard to save you…..there is no questioning of his sacrificial love for you, even more so if he is a stranger to you. By that action, you know you are valued, loved and cherished…..the reality and greatness of the Father’s love is evident in an undeniable way through the action of that person….who’s love is an active, living and sacrificial thing for them….to the point where their physical life and comfort is not a hindrance, but a first fruit to give as a sacrifice to God for your sake.

The community of Christ, often labeled the church, manifests itself as a community that loves one another to the point where action and truth nurture a strong community where love is king and “self-giving” love is modeled after Christ’s example….drawing those away from destructive behaviors by representing actions that lead to life and healing and wholeness.

In voluntary, live-giving, truthful and giving from our abundance……..rather than building a bigger community that allows isolated living, hidden agendas and self-promotion, it would keep a close, interactive and relational community that gives birth to others and values that transparency that promotes accountability, prevents untruth and brings harmony under the banner of truth. Jesus' death and love creates the community of life and love.

Those within that community ought to manifest a love for others that serves the end of nurturing community (v. 16). And one does not strengthen community by speech alone, but by actions and in truth.

It is the commitment of the community to the ideals exampled, defined and lived by Christ to the truth, life and love of His bride that is reflected not in its moral superiority so much as its undeniable and humanly illogical commitment to what the reality lived in pursuit of those things that is the persistent aim and goal of relational living in the body as experienced personally in the relationship we have experienced in our relation with the Father.

The community should be able to give up what we possess in order to bless others….not waiting for the ‘right’ motivation but because it is the right thing to do. Often, it is the action of doing right that leads to a willingness and motivation to continue such rightful living.

It is manifested in so many undeniable ways, even in the culturalized western church of today:

In the travelling of a woman for an hour to deliver some money to a brother in Christ who she only knows by prayer requests to bless him with a 1,000.00 to put towards his needs…..

In a brother, blessed by an unexpected bonus through work, that gives 2,000.00 to another to help him by a car to get to work……

In a band of brothers who refuse to allow another who they know to stay in the darkness of his past, but continue to accept him as he is and call him to grow……

In a community that spans the world who comes together to promote the commission…regardless of the foolishness the world perceives it to be……

What would it look like in the community of believers who belong to the greater family of God, bound only by geographical location to the gathering they attend?

The mega-churched congregation who splits and mergers with other smaller churches not to incorporate under a common pastor, but to promote community, fellowship and the commission….

the larger giving freely to the smaller… the physical costs of newer buildings, fancier worship centers and comfortable relationships to instill, edify and promote the unity of the body….regardless of human denominational banners but because of the unifying foundations of Christ………

the free movement of small groups to other groups not to disrupt the teaching but to promote greater relationships beyond the familiar and to reach out to the unfamiliar within their own congregations…..

the discipleship of believers not to remain in the congregation, but to become apostles in the community as a whole; village, city, township, county, state, nation and the world………

the mentorship of disciples to be leaders who replicate the process; relationally being apostles to disciple those who seek a greater relationship with God by their examples……

What a church that would be against the tide of humanism and self-promotion of the secular world and such a desirable bride to the Bridegroom….

No comments: