Love - What We Need to Change the World -- or at Least Our Neighbors

The reason most churches in America are struggling is not because the culture is hostile to the gospel but that we have yet to really live the gospel in their midst. We like to speak the gospel, but words are cheap. Most people reject intellectual propositions rather than Jesus Christ. We need to live the gospel, not just speak it.

The key to loving is that the change that Jesus brings has to have already happened in us. Love begins with us accepting Christ's love and reflecting it to others. We cannot love the unlovable unless our hearts are changed from a worldly, selfish state to a Christ-like, giving, sacrificial state.

When we see the hurt, the oppressed, the hopeless, are we hurt? Do we sympathize? Or do we echo the words of the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people" (Luke 18:11). Are we haughty in our position of wealth, education, or any other part of our life we hang our pride and success on? The tax collector prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). Jesus followed that up by saying, "I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

A chart in the book UnChristian, which deals with what the younger generation thinks about the church and what the church has done to foster that thought, explains the call to a radical, sacrificial and loving life through the following verses.

Genesis 12:2-3—God wants the lives of his people to bless others.

Isaiah 58:10—God followers should spend themselves on behalf of the poor.

Micah 6:8—We should be known for living humbly and pursuing justice and offering mercy.

Matthew 5:44—Love people who seem to be ‘enemies’ and pray for them.

Matthew 25:35-40—Whatever people do for the ‘least of these’—forgotten and overlooked people in society—they do for Jesus.

Mark 9:35—The greatest role in life is to serve others.

Luke 4:18—Jesus’ ministry was first introduced as freeing captives, serving the oppressed, and healing the sick.

Luke 15:3-7—God pursues people like a shepherd would search for even one straying sheep.

Luke 15:11-32—God is described as a father who patiently waits for the return of his child.

John 3:17—Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it.

John 15:13—You cannot love a person more than by giving your life up for him or her.

Galatians 5:13—Christians have freedom to love unconditionally as Christ loved people.

Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6; 1 John 3:16-19—Our lives are to be ‘poured out’ and spent to serve God’s purposes.

Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:21-22—Our attitude should be like that of Jesus, who loved and accepted humans even though they were ‘enemies’ of God. The he changed their status from enemies to friends, even sons and daughters of God, when they commit themselves to him.

1 Timothy 3:1-7—One of the qualifications of Christian leadership is to have ‘a good reputation with outsiders’ (v.7 NIV).

Titus 3:2—Christians should be peaceable and considerate, showing true humility toward everyone.

2 Peter 3:9—God wants everyone to repent and turn to him.

Would other people describe your life as a Christian in these terms? Do these principles guide your relationships with outsiders? Are you a Christ follower who seeks to live out this picture of Christianity as you interact with others?

Quote from unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters
by David Kinnaman (213-314).