Sunday, 6 September 2009

Church - Where is the love?

I always liked this song by Black Eyed Peas which asks the question:'Where is the love?'in the context of the world. It however has always made me think :'where is the love in the Church?'.I remember George Verwer saying one time that for someone to be known as 'sound' in doctrine but to be unloving, is for them not to be sound in doctrine at all as they have missed the most important aspect of what Scripture teaches.This I most certainly agree with.

Having returned home from the Greenbelt Festival in England I have been reflecting on the many people I met and chatted with.Apart from those of the Church Army and some from the C.M.S (Church Missionary Society)many of the people were now no longer within the evangelical Church as such. Their stories they are often sad ones where some speak of being controlled and manipulated by church leaders and then finally rejected when they dared to question the authority of that leadership.Others have felt excluded for a variety of reasons which also forced them to leave.Their Church or fellowship has certainly not been a place where there has been much love.

I am convinced that the one place on earth where you should be able to go to and experience real love, agape love, is the Church-but sadly it is usually not the case. I don't expect to find it in the secular world but strangely enough people often find secular clubs less judgemental, more caring and more inclusive than the Church. Why is this the case? On reflection, as it is the thing Christ wants to see most fully in his people,Satan will do his utmost to bring in backbiting, pride, jealousy,gossip,cliques etc,etc.

Jesus told his followers that the world would know his disciples by our love. Paul, Peter, John and James in their letters are full of encouragement to put on love, yet though we are often strong in doctrine we often lack even the milk of human kindness.We are not really people of the Word if we don't love, we may talk the talk well but if we don't walk the walk our words are merely , to quote Dylan,'worthless foam from the mouth'!

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Though I am what you might call a card carrying member of the Greek Orthodox Church, and that is what I identify myself as when abruptly or routinely asked, you know me well enough, brother, to know that I am simply a follower of Jesus, and if that isn't enough qualification to be a Christian, then so be it.

I struggled my whole Christian life with trying to figure out why I didn't seem to fit in the institutional church very well. After all, I tried to do everything the bible told me to do, and then on top of that, everything the church told me to do. Sometimes they clashed, and out of ignorance in my youth I sometimes fell for the line that "the church knows best."

I will be categorized as a heretic by Orthodox zealots for saying this, but I don't care, because I am not alone in thinking this, even inside the Orthodox Church: The true Church is in fact the invisible Church, invisible in that it is not contained by buildings, structures or denominations, and because of that, it is invisible both to the world and to these entities called "churches" as well.

Many of us belong to denominations or, in my case, to the "true" Church—Orthodox Christianity—but we are not limited by this membership. In fact, I am in closer and more real communion with Christ-followers who do not belong outwardly to the Orthodox Church than with many of those who do.

Love is the hallmark of the true Church—nothing else!—and where love is, God is, Christ is, the Holy Spirit is. Christ does not tell us in the gospels, "Make sure each other is believing in exactly the right doctrine," but rather "Love one another as I have loved you."

I am not saying that doctrine is unimportant, but that it is secondary. Love is like the feet, very humble, but they're the parts of the body that enable you to follow Jesus, they lead you to Him. Doctrine is like the head, full of itself, often lost in the clouds of speculation, often misguiding the feet, often putting up "mental roadblocks" where the feet know better, where the feet would go if not restrained. No one has ever walked by using his head as the organ of locomotion. If you don't have feet, then you must use a wheelchair, but you still don't hop along on your head.

The church I belong to is the one where we are all of one mind because we are all of one loving heart. The mind of Christ is the only mind that is not flawed, the only mind that does not fantasize, lie or lead astray, or prevent the blessed feet from walking after Him.

The church I belong to is really that one, and you and me, brother, and our Lord, Master and Savior is here with us, among us, and within us, "He pitched His tent among us and became man," so that we might pitch our tent in the heavenlies, and there abide forever in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

What does Christ see when He looks upon the Church? Nothing and no one that He hasn't placed there. Whatever and whoever is of the world is as invisible to us, as we are to it and to them.

Glory to God, and thanks for writing this post. I remember you to God and thank Him for you every day, brother.

Go with God.

Andrew Kenny said...

How true.Thanks Romanos for your comments which were very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

TRue words are spoken here.