Follow me here…
If God = Love, and if Jesus = God, then following Jesus = Following Love
And love, by definition, is FOR someone else.
Ekklesia, the Greek word for The Church (as referenced in the New Testament of the Bible), means the assembly of the called (those who have responded to the call of God’s immense, all-encompassing, unbelievable, overwhelming, grace-filled, forgiveness-filled love…not a technical definition, but my interpretation of the love from God I’ve felt in my own life).
Shouldn’t, then, that assembly of those following Love Himself be filled with love for one another? No matter who they are? Without judgment? We read in the book of John that Jesus came to love the world, not judge it. And, if we – the assembly of the called, also known as the church – love others as Christ has loved us, then shouldn’t we have created a gathering of people filled with love for each other? A place of transparency and acceptance? A gathering of people that people long to be a part of? Instead of a gathering of people that others work hard to avoid for fear of being ostracized?
Church has become something we do, a place we go, a notch in our pride belts…instead of who we are. We talk about church more in terms of how it fits into our lives and how great we think it makes us, instead of an environment of unconditional love.
Theologian Andrew Kirk says it beautifully: What the New Testament means by the Church is not an institution which owns property, performs rites and organizes meetings, or even one that plans strategies to evangelize unreached people. Rather, it is a group of ordinary people who, because they are experiencing the immense grace of a compassionate God, are learning how to overcome hostility between people, forgive and trust one another, share what they have and encourage one another in wholesome and joyous relationships.
If love is our mission, than community follows. We can’t have one without the other.
As Christians, our unity comes from that big, sappy, mushy gift of unconditional love that we’ve all chosen to accept. It’s grace.
Our unity does not come from how we do church, or what we look like.
Grace, Himself, is our great uniter.
Who cares if people worship God differently? Who cares if we all have questions about God? Why do we argue about sin if God only sees His children as He sees his own perfect son (Jesus)? Who cares what gender, ethnicity, culture, or lifestyle brings to the table.
God is bigger than all of that. And if God = love, then love is bigger than all of that, too.
And, the moment we think we have God figured out…turned into a process, program, or a textbook…is the moment we need to realize we’ve missed the enormity of His being…we’ve missed the point.
Can’t we embrace our differences and all chase after love together? Realizing that we all bring something valuable and beautiful to the table?
God is love. God loves us. As followers of Jesus, we have chosen to accept God’s love for us. God’s love is so big that it cannot be contained in one human body.
Love is about relationships, not rules.
Love creates community.
The church should not be an inwardly-focused exclusive club.
The church (followers of Christ, Himself) should be home to a giant party, a party where everyone is invited, a party where everyone feels loved, a party that deepens relationships and friendships, a party where people realize that the one thing that unites is bigger than all of the things that make us different.
Americans are hungry for real relationships and we, the church, should be standing at the ready, without judgment, to be curious and compassionate reminders of the bigness of Love, himself.
The church can and should be heaven on earth.