My Bible Community wrapped up our Engaging Culture and Finding God series this past Sunday with the third installment of the distinguishing characteristics of the Church. Having covered a distinctly Christian faith and hope, it was time to turn our attention toward love.
Love as a theme is everywhere in our culture: movies, music, TV, and the Web. The problem, however, is the majority of our culture falls short in its concept of what love really is by defining love as a feeling. That explains why cultural expressions such as music and movies feature characters that fall in and out love over and over again. There is no permanence or unconditional nature associated with the construct of love, and thus it repeatedly fails those who pursue it.
Examining a misguided or incomplete view of love grants us, the Church, a clear perspective on how Godâ??s love, and by extension our love, is distinct. In Romans 5:1-11, Paul explains how God demonstrated his own love for us while we still sinners. This passage cements the idea that Godâ??s love cannot be earned or lost. The video â??Never Been Unlovedâ?? helps drive this point home, and few would argue the unconditional quality of Godâ??s love.
But what about us as we navigate through this life and engage the culture around us? In reading and thinking about what makes Godâ??s love so distinct, I realized that the Church is to aspire to the same love. A distinctly Christian love is a love for God that manifests itself as a love for others, both inside and outside the Church. The problem for me (and with many others I suspect) is that I still require people to earn my love and, once earned, they had better be on good behavior so as not to lose my love. Could anything be more opposite of Godâ??s character? Arenâ??t we charged with conveying his likeness to our community? In this area many Christians have fallen woefully short, but perhaps it isnâ??t too late to begin again.
In preparing to lead this discussion I was reminded of something I heard a long time ago: the day you become a follower of Jesus Christ you forfeit the right to pick and choose who you show love to. I began to dream about the possibility of Christians everywhere participating in their cultures while loving as God loves. On the other end of the spectrum, I remembered reading an observation that came out of a conversation between authors Donald Miller and Rick McKinley at the recent Catalyst Conference. One of them expressed that the culture around us doesnâ??t think we like them, and by transference, they donâ??t think God likes them either.
As you engage culture in your daily life, consider what your love for others, or lack thereof, tells your culture about the God you follow.