Tag: Loved People

Loved People, Love People. (2015)

loved people love peopleI messed up. When I wrote Monday’s post, Loved People, I was supposed to stick to the idea that although God loves everyone, as Christians we’re aware of this truth and we can find wholeness and peace in that. I didn’t. Instead, I went off on a tangent about how because we know we’re loved and we’ve experienced the joy of that, we ought to be compelled to love others. That should have been this post. But, I’m not sorry. Over the last few years I’ve gotten to a place where I can’t separate the two. In this post I’ll just expand on Monday’s.

The thing about love is that humans have turned it into a feeling. I’m convinced it’s not. Inarguably there are feelings that accompany love, but as a feeling all it’s own, that doesn’t do love justice. I say that for a couple reasons. The first is found in how feelings surrounding love change. The love I feel for my wife now, as opposed to when we first met, feels totally different. When I look at her now my love has solidarity and carries the weight and depth of years of struggle and success. I look at her differently. We talk with each other differently.  Our love for each other is more mature, though still maturing further, but it’s far more mature than it was on our wedding day. The second is that feelings ebb and flow based on circumstance. If love was simply a feeling, the cross might have looked different. But, for Jesus to still display love, while He hung there, torn to shreds, dying, surely that is more than a feeling. At the least, it was a conscious decision and the most, it’s something we can’t even understand, but still get to experience. I’ll agree that love is in part a collection of feelings, albeit different ones at different time, but what makes love actually love, is the action that accompanies those feelings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, love begets love. If we are a loved people, and we know that, we have to love others. There’s no exception; Jesus doesn’t leave room for it. For those that are business, or even process minded, think of it in terms of Vision | Mission | Strategy.

Vision: 1 Timothy 2:3-4

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mission: Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Strategy: Matthew 22:37-39 & John 13:35

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If God desires all to be saved and Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all He commanded, so that they’ll teach it, then the strategy that He developed around that is love. His strategy is not just drenched in love, it is love. All that He taught revolved around healing, caring for others, turning the other cheek, goodness toward our neighbor in spite of their intent. And all of that requires love as the plan of action. What Jesus introduced was higher level thinking in the area of glorifying God. It revolved around acknowledging our inability to make good on our sins and instead reoriented our attention toward relieving the burden of others, through acts of love. It’s the only reason we’re still here and He hasn’t returned; that all might be saved.

Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry.

Tweet: Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. #ApproachGod http://ctt.ec/hDXxu+ vis @bpags2

You can argue theology. You can twist scripture to support what and who you think God hates. You can even put your own spin on what is required for salvation (but, to be clear, it’s by grace through faith alone, both a gift from God). But, you cannot argue that Jesus was not a minister of love. If God is love and Jesus is God and Jesus is the cornerstone, then love is the cornerstone. Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. As a Christian, it’s also yours. As a loved people, you’re expected, and ought to be compelled, to love people.

Loved people love people.

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Loved People. (2015)

love-god-love-people212. That’s the number of times that the New Testament mentions the word Love. Depending on the translation you use it varies, but that doesn’t include the Old Testament. If you count those the number more than doubles. Of the 212 times the word love is mentioned in the New Testament, about 51 one of those are from Jesus. That’s a big deal. Here’s why, of the 27 books of the New Testament, Jesus physically appears in six of them. Of those six, four are the chronicles of his life and ministry, essentially telling the same events from the perspective of different people and written for different audiences. The reason that’s important is because of the over 200 times love is mentioned in the New Testament, Jesus said it about a quarter of those times. Love was a big deal to Jesus.

I think that one of the most important verses in the bible is John 3:16.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That single verse is the Good News of the message that Christ calls us to witness to. Everything else aside, this is our message to the world. When we talk about God, this ought to be our lead, our middle and our conclusion. When we speak of Jesus it ought to be so saturated in this verse that others can’t argue it, because they see that it’s really real in the way that it affects us. The best thing about this verse is that it includes everyone. Everyone.

Nowhere in there does it place a condition on God’s love. It is a conditional statement, but that condition has nothing to do with God’s love. The condition is directed at our belief in Jesus as a necessity for being saved. But His love, that’s exists there for everyone; it’s a without exception or expectation kind of love. So when I talk about Loved People, I’m talking to everyone. But I’m not naive or overly optimistic. I do understand that some don’t believe that or at the least would believe, except they’ve never experienced it, so it’s a difficult idea to accept. That’s why, as a Christian, you have to understand that verse, and a number of others, but especially that one. In understanding it we, Christians, are able to extend it to others.

To the Loved People that know they’re loved,

Others will know His love through you. Think about the first time you really and genuinely experienced the love of Christ. Where their other Christians involved? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That means that Christians love each other. He also said, “Love you neighbor as yourself.” That means that Christians love other people. If you haven’t ever experienced the love of Jesus that occurs in a community of believers, I might suggest that you haven’t experienced the fullness of the love of Christ and you’re probably not experience the “life abundant” that Jesus said He came to give. Find community and you’ll find deepness in His love. But it’s not just for you and it’s certainly not for nothing. While He lavishes you with love for love’s sake, He also pours it out to be poured out. You’re loved for God’s own glory; so that other’s might experience the same love. While it may seem like a selfish thing, the saving nature of His love eliminates any perceived selfish intent. It’s a hard thing to understand, but once you know His love, the logistics of it seem less important. You are loved to love others. If you’re a Christians and not compelled to love others, I’d argue that you’ve never actually experienced His love and your decision to follow Him is still just one based on a “head” decision. If that’s the case, find community and I guarantee that the transition from head to heart following will be blatant and radical.

It isn’t our duty to love, it’s our compulsion; it’s who we’re meant to be.

Tweet: It isn’t our duty to love, it’s our compulsion; it’s who we’re meant to be. #ApproachGod via @bpags2

To the Loved People that don’t know they’re loved,

God does love you. He does. If you’ve never had an experience with a Christian that reflected that love, I’m sorry. It isn’t our duty to love, it’s our compulsion; it’s who we’re meant to be. I wish I could put into words the attractiveness of Jesus’ love. Obviously the bible does the best job around, but there’s still something that happens when you get to experience it that I just can’t explain. But, I promise you this, you are loved. Anyone that tells you different, even if they use scripture, is a liar straight from hell. The fact that John 3:16 says that “God loves the world” disproves any notion that “God Hates ________” (fill in the blank with anything you’ve ever heard). Because the world’s message is that you aren’t good enough or that you have to be better, believing that you’re loved is probably one of the more difficult parts of being a Christian; but it doesn’t make it any less true. You are loved. My prayer is that more Christians will understand, and remember, the impact that feeling loved had on them and extend the same to others and that you might benefit from that.

Loved People, love others, ok. Love well and often.

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2 Things Your Love Can Do Without

loved people

Love is a dangerous and strange thing. Love will dismantle you in a moment and restore every part of you in that same moment.

Throughout history love has been attached to both epic tragedy and extravagant joy.  In the name of love we are willing to do things that we never dreamed. For instance, I love my wife so much I willingly endure temperatures in our home that are on par with the outer boundaries of hell because she’s cold… even in the summer. What can I say, love does. Love is the great influencer. As dangerous and strange as love is, it is also the safest and most familiar place you can reside. We’re built for love, to give and receive it.

Being that God is love and He desires to have us as His beloved, it follows that we are created to receive that love and extend it to others.  Thankfully many Christians know this to be their call (or at least they understand the basis of it). I’m beginning to hear people all over the church saying that we’re called to love others, and that’s a great thing. What I’m worried about is the fact that I hear a lot of other stuff attached to it.

One of the most common things that church people say is, “I hate the sin, but I love the sinner.”  My response to that, after fighting back the urge to laugh and cry at the same time, is always, “No you don’t.”  Please understand, I’m not laughing at the person; I know they’re well intentioned when they say it, because I was when I said it.  I’m laughing at the notion that hate and love can exist in the same sentence.  “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” is found NOWHERE in the bible.  The idea for that saying isn’t even in the Bible. It wasn’t even part of Jesus’ teachings in any way.  Jesus did say “Love God and love others” and He did also talk about dealing with “the speck” (or sin) in your brothers eye, but not for the purpose that we use them. When we use that scripture to call out someone else’s sin we disregards the fact that Jesus first said deal with the plank (in other words, huge board.  I mean, the guy was a carpenter, so I’m sure He was pretty solid on what a plank of wood looked like) in your own eye.  The point was, deal with the huge amounts of sin in your own life, before you ever deal with the small sin in your BROTHER’S life. The key to that whole passage of scripture is brother. Jesus was talking about dealing with the sin of other believers, not people outside of His followers. Yet, sadly, we use that type of scripture to justify calling out the sin of people that don’t even believe they should be following Jesus.  Then we wonder why they won’t go to church.  Near as I remember, I’ve never seen any one come to Jesus when a Christian said to them, “Jesus really hates your sin, but He loves you, so you should follow Him.”

Here’s the truth, you cannot truly love someone when you’re focused on what you hate about them and what they’re doing wrong. When it comes to God, hate never precedes love.  It just cannot. Love stands alone and conquers hate. This is the way it has to be, love cannot have anything to do with hate, except to crush it.

With that said, if we as The Church, really want to love others as we are commanded to (Mark 12:31), here are the two things that we need to eliminate from our love in order to make it a real, Jesus-level love.

1.  Exception

all-welcome-except-you_mge6r_24702Our love isn’t reserved for a particular group of people.  There is no “better than” group in the gospel.  The truth is that EVERYONE is just as undeserving of your love as you are of God’s, yet God gives it anyway.  As Jesus walked around during the three years of His ministry, He reserved His love for no one in particular, but gave it freely to anyone that would accept it. Did everyone accept it? No, not then and not now. Did He stop offering His love because people rejected it?  Nope. He continued to offer love to everyone from the prostitute and tax collector, to the Samaritan woman (which by the way was a HUGE no-no, because Jews considered Samaritans to be lower than dogs), to the Roman officer, and to the Pharisee (remember Nicodemus and the Pharisee that buried Him).  No one was excepted from the offer of love.

For us as His followers, our offer of love should not exclude anyone.  We need to understand that love is not acceptance of behavior, but acceptance of the person. I know any good Christian will nod their head at this and say “Amen”.  How could you possibly say you follow Jesus and disagree with any part of that idea? But, many will go about their day and still hold back their love, without consciously admitting it, never engaging that person who is living a life they disagree with and they’ll do it under the guise of, “If I’m part of their life then that shows I accept what they’re doing.”  The problem with that way of thinking is that you completely miss the point of actually loving so
meone. We often get hung up on evangelizing AT people to convince them to change their life, but what if we invested time into a relationship with them and let Jesus build a genuine love for them inside our heart?  What happens then? What happens is that we end up actually caring for the person and getting to tell them all about our Lord in the safety and familiarity of love.

2.  Expectation

open-hand This one is a little more complicated. It took a long time for me to accept this idea as true.  It’s difficult to not expect people to “get saved” when we’re doing church. The going in on this is that we’re going to present the Gospel message in a clear way and the Holy Spirit will compel people to surrender to Jesus.  In general there is nothing wrong with this idea.  We should have an expectation that God will move. He tells us He will, so we should expect it.  But, when we attach expectation to our love, that’s when things get hairy.  As far as Sunday morning church goes, what if instead of expecting people to “get saved” we expected the Holy Spirit to show up for our celebration (already in progress) and equip us for the work in the week ahead?  What if we then went out into the week and into our communities, ready to love people without an expectation for anything except people getting to experience the love of Christ through His followers?  What would church look like then?

I know the argument might be that Jesus expected things from people, i.e. He told the prostitute to “Go and sin no more.” Yes He did direct her to stop sinning and no doubt He expected her to or else He wouldn’t had said it, but that expectation isn’t what I’m talking about.  Again, the idea of “without expectation” does not excuse Jesus’ followers from adhering to the standard of living He sets for us.  After we commit to following Him, He has an expectation for how we should live, but His love is still offered regardless of whether we live that way or not.  His love is a free love, always without expectation.  Don’t believe me?  There are a lot of stories that could illustrate this point, but just consider the 10 lepers that Jesus healed. Jesus healed all 10 lepers and that was His practical act of love.  After healing all of them, only one came back to thank Him.  The other nine failing to return to show thanks, didn’t cause Jesus to remove the healing, again that was His free, practical act of love (it was offered without expectation), but the one that returned was healed and had his sins forgiven.  Though that single leper benefited from His belief and experienced complete redemption, the other nine still benefited from Jesus’ grace and experienced love. They received an un-expectant love.

We’re not to expect when we love. That idea goes the way of a selfless love.  It shouts Jesus’ command to “Love God and love others” and says, “I love you regardless of who you are and how you respond to it.”  You don’t save someone by telling them how bad they are; you do it by telling them how good Jesus is.  Really, you save someone by introducing them to the only one that can and loving them without exception and expectation does that.

What else can our love do without, or with more of?

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