Original Opinion Piece for August 21 (’14)
The ink that has been spilled in the past several weeks concerning the persecution of Christians in Iraq has been heart wrenching. As we read article-after-article recounting the horrific events happening to our brothers and sisters, I am full of conflicting emotions: rage, grief, horror, and a longing for Jesus to return and wipe out His enemies. There is one emotion in particular that has been boiling up inside of me during the last few months, however: love.
This article is my plea for love. Not for our enemies, as you might expect. I’m sure others will write about that. Here, I mean love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that are running the good race and fighting the good fight, even to the point of death. This is my plea for you, Christian, to look inside and examine yourself and see whether you are pouring your love into your church family with fervent zeal and uncompromising commitment. While our brothers are murdered in Iraq for the name of our Savior, I would challenge you to take a look around at the Christians that sit in the pews of your church. These are our family members in Christ. These are the ones that with whom we could one day be in prison, murdered alongside, starved next to…. I pray the Lord returns before we have to endure this kind of persecution in America, but the speed in which our country has turned morality on its head and, as a result, made the Church its enemy is an ominous sign of things to come.
What kind of love am I talking about? The same kind Jesus talked about: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13-14). I find myself wondering if I really love these people next to me. This is not easy to ask nor an easy question to answer. Have you asked this of yourself? It can be easy to go through the motions, get in a habit, and operate out of habit rather than love.
The love which Jesus describes is a selfless, sacrificial love—a love that forsakes the pursuit of our own happiness and comfort in order to provide for the Body; a love that extends beyond Sunday mornings and reaches into the everyday struggle that our brothers endure; a love willing to suffer alongside one another, pray for one another, and die for one another. Acts of love done with a begrudging spirit or with the intent of recognition are not a biblical love. Peter tells us, “By obedience of the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again” (1 Pet 1:22). We are called to love each other earnestly and from a pure heart. The two together are a biblical, godly, Christ-reflecting love.
The local church is filled with people who sin. Big surprise. However, we are united by the One who has paid for those sins and, as a result, have been adopted into a Family. Ties to our spiritual family are to be stronger than the ones with our family members that share the same blood. I admit it: this is (absolutely) a foreign idea to Americans. Many find it easier to be bound by SEC loyalty than spiritual identity; by blood and DNA than baptism and communion. But our believing family is more of a family than our unbelieving family (if, indeed, they are unbelievers). But do we act like it? Would we sacrifice just as much and to the same extent for Mr. Jones who sits in the back row and complains about everything than we would for our unbelieving mother or father? If our pagan cousin was in jeopardy of being decapitated in Iraq, what would my reaction be if a believer faced the same fate? Do I really love my church family the way I should? Is my heart full of the self sacrificing love that Jesus commands? As I stated before, tough questions.
This is my exhortation to you Christian: let the love that you have for your church family be the kind Jesus talked about. Be ready to die for them. When we take this approach, the natural loving actions of everyday life will grow. This creates the unity within our churches that is so desperately needed. After all, one characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is love.
Our brothers and sisters need our love abroad and I would encourage you to pray without ceasing, donate what you can, and encourage others to join you.
We need each other brethren. The single lady in the fifth row needs to hear that she is loved and that you are there for her if she needs anything. Your Pastor needs to hear that you love him and understand that you’re praying for him as much as he prays for you. Oh that we could love each other as Jesus loved us. Search yourself, Christian, search deep and then tell your church family you love them this Sunday.