Thursday, September 04, 2014

Seeking Maturity Part 4: 3 Ways Churches Love

Love in all its ways
Loving God requires showing love to all people in tangible and meaningful ways.
If we desire a maturing relationship with God that goes beyond heart or mind to a perfected love, then we must have heart to hand and hand to heart love for others.

The people of God have been called to show love in three tangible, meaningful ways.
 Micah 6:6-8 (New Living Translation)
What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
    with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
    and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
    to pay for our sins?
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah calls upon the people of God to put tangible, meaningful love before even worship. Jesus said a similar thing.
Matthew 25:34-40 (New Living Translation)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’
Loving God in the most meaningful way means exhibiting real acts of love toward others.

3 Areas of Love

For the people of God, there are 3 distinct areas of love that seem to be a focus point: justice, mercy, and living evangelism.

People of faith get the basics of mercy very well: doing good things for others. But so often, we pair doing good with things that don't reflect true love. We will do good things but attitudes of pity, shame, stereotyping, or judmentalism may be part of those acts.

Mercy is not just doing good for others because they have a need. Mercy is the act of caring for another person because they are another human being. But Matthew 25:40 adds to the definition of mercy. Mercy is the act of caring for another human being because they matter to God.

Our culture has corrupted the meaning of justice. In our culture, justice means revenge in most cases. It is the concept of punishing people when it is perceived that they did something wrong, usually by wronging us.

A biblical understanding of Justice is about the systems we live in, the connections we share with one another.
Deuteronomy 10:17-18

17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. 18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.
Justice according to the Law is the system of ensuring that no one is treated wrongly. If we partner mercy with justice, we begin to see that the hungry, the homeless, the sick and imprisoned, the abandoned and forgotten are in need of justice. In our world there are millions in need of justice. There are millions who do not have anyone looking out for them.

The lost, the lonely, the forgotten
The mentally ill, the homeless, the elderly
The abused, the neglected, the ugly of society
God calls us to change the systems that work against these people. God empowers us to do acts of tangible, meaningful love for these people that they might live with dignity. And we should feel joyful about this task only because God cares for them.

Finally, evangelism may not seem to be discussed in Micah. Consider for a moment what evangelism means. Contemporary American church culture believes that evangelism is the task of a specially called preacher, the "hired" preacher, or a committee planning an event or program. When we look at the New Testament, evangelism is the calling and purpose of every baptized member of the body of Christ.

Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 are the last words of Jesus to the disciples. In both it is clear that anyone who has experienced the living presence of Jesus Christ is to share with people in the world that experience. If we do not tell people about the transforming love of Jesus Christ, there is no future for the church.

But we don't evangelize to add to our churches. Evangelism is living out the transformed love of God. It is that same movement of phases of God's love. It is the same love of God that is carried out in the tangible, meaningful acts toward all people. It is giving people a glimpse of God's love that has changed us because that love is for them.