When the towns unloved first started to knock at the house, despite never shutting up about God everywhere else, I never seemed to talk about God with them and felt a failure. But God said to me… “NO! They’ve been loved with an agenda all their lives, I want you to love them without an agenda. Just love them and leave the rest to me!” So those simple cups of coffee, a hot meal and lengthy chats have always been given freely and unconditionally.
God also told me, at that time, that loving the lost was not a one way thing… “you need them as much as they need you, in fact…you need them more!!” As Christians, in our immaturity or arrogance, we often think, the lost only need us, when the truth is, we need the lost. The reality is, that with no opportunity to love, I would not grow in love!
The other evening, as I pondered love, trust and my relationships in loving the lost, I got the words pop in my mind… “The same principle applies!” I felt God saying to me, all that I have learnt in loving those outside the church, applies to loving those inside the church too! God wants us to love our brothers and sisters without an agenda and understand also, that without relationship together, we wouldn’t grow. Relationship is developed as we endure with one another, bear with one another and are built up by one another.
Think about what it takes for you to have relationship with someone. What did it take for you to come to love that person? How do you know that a person loves you? People often say… “Because we’ve been through alot together; They’re always there for me; I can rely on them; When I’m in need, I can count on them.” A relationship is built upon those things and also upon the building blocks of unconditional love, encouragement, kindness and patience.
In loving those outside the Church, in the smallest of ways, I do all those things. And no less is required of me towards my brothers and sisters in Christ.
God’s agenda towards a person whether lost or not is always love. His agenda is always long suffering, is always patience. Without God’s agenda, we are just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
There was a day when I thought I had it all sorted. I had a fast, dramatic conversion, a total life transformation….God renewed my mind fast! He downloaded me with wisdom and revelation of who He was in a very short space of time. In my first year of returning to my Maker, and still bedridden from sickness, I consumed his Word for up to eighteen hours a day, memorising up to one hundred scriptures a month, just because I loved it. I was privy to alot of truth.
Paul talks of the thorn in his flesh, the messenger he received from Satan. We quote that scripture often, but what we don’t quote along with it, is why he had received that messenger…it was to keep him from becoming conceited, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations he had been given. I was conceited. Truth without love made me hard. Truth without love made it hard for me to be loved or to truly love in the way God loves. Truth without love meant relationship was near on impossible. God, through His mercy upon me, showed me that I could indeed understand all the mysteries of God, have all knowledge of God and even have all faith, but without love, HIS kinda love, I would be nothing.
So…the same principle applies! The way I endeavour to love the lost is the same way I must endeavour to love the saved. We are not only called to love the lost, we are called to love everyone!! So whilst I may pat myself on the back for loving those outside the church, God says, I can actually give away all I have and even provide food for the poor, but I will still be nothing without God’s love in me and…God’s love is no respecter of persons! He does not love the lost more than he loves me or you and in precisely the same way I am called to have relationship with those outside the church, I am called to have it with those within the church. In fact, I believe it matters more!
A good friend of mine once gave a sermon on marriage and divorce and in it he said that God had shown him, it was his righteousness at home that counted the most, not his righteousness before men. It was how he treated his wife, his children, his family that really showed what kind of a man he was before God. In the same way, that is true of us individually and it is true of us corporately. So much damage has been done by the body of Christ because of us not loving each other in the way Jesus commanded us to do.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13
It is not the knowledge of God which saves souls, it is the love of God, manifested through Christ crucified, outpoured through us via our hands and feet towards humanity that saves! 1 John tells us that no-one has ever seen God but when we love one another, God’s love is made manifest through us. It really is that simple…people will come to know God as we love one another. Let us not miss this, it is everything. Without it we will indeed be blind, pitiable and poor whilst foolishly thinking ourselves rich and prosperous.
Love is a choice, a decision, a commitment. It has to be, because to truly love is hard…it flies in the face of all that is evil and conquers all darkness. We cannot love without God’s grace upon us and His strength at work in us.
Our relationships on earth should grow, develop and mature parallel to our relationship with Christ. We cannot separate one from the other. Jesus said… “Love each other as I have loved you”. The relationships around us should mirror the love we have received from Christ. Will we be perfect? I think not, but, we must press on to forgive as we have been forgiven; to extend mercy as we have received mercy and to love as we have been loved.
As God is patient with me, so I too, must endeavour to be patient with others. As God bears with me, so I too, must bear with others. As He encourages me daily, long suffers with me yearly, so I too, must do that with others. As I give away that which I have received, I will naturally produce the fruit of healthy, Godly relationships in my life.
In turn, relationship reaps a harvest of righteousness in itself. Relationship rooted in Christ and founded on God’s love, changes, encourages and motivates a person towards God’s higher calling.
So how does relationship happen? Well…I believe as in all things, Christ is our model. “Greater love has no-one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I believe God is asking us at this time to go deeper…
Are you ready to lay down your life for your friends? And he’s not talking about you going and starting some ministry somewhere. He’s saying…Right now, here, are you willing to lay down your life? Are you willing to love ALL of those around you – the lost and the saved, in the way that He loved you? Are you willing to lay down your fears and enter into relationship with each other the way He entered into relationship with you?
God places relationship above anything we could ever do for him. Our ministries must never come at the expense of relationship within the body of Christ. Are you willing to do all it takes, to relationship with each other in this life (that He gave you!), according to His blueprint for church…to eat together, fellowship together, pray together, devote ourselves to the Word, carry one another, and encourage one another? Are you willing to let go of the excuses that prevent you from doing just that?
This was a new commandment. The newness is in the fact that this was a command for the disciples themselves, the ones closest to him. Jesus had relationship with them and was urging them, as they moved forward together, to remember to love each other as He had loved them. Jesus did life with his disciples. He ate with them, bore with them, encouraged them and then told them, as He’s telling us now, to do the same thing He did. Knowing through that, and only that, would the world come to know we are truly His disciples!
Amen!!…and God Bless x