Over the years, I have thought a lot about the 2 greatest commandments God has given Christians.
Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
(yes, as yourself)
Jesus spoke these commandments to the Pharisees, who he defined as law promoting, rule following, loveless hypocrites, known for their self righteous religion and pride.
They clashed with Jesus.
I wonder. Do we ever clash with Jesus?
Have we ever found ourselves promoting the law over loving a person and patiently allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them?
Do we find ourselves fulfilled in our faith because we follow the rules?
Have we ever fooled ourselves and rationalized a sin, making an exception?
Are we self righteous because we would not do that sin?
Are we prideful in our position at church? In the way we relate to others? Especially those who share our faith?
Have we dishonored anyone with our straightforwardness through “telling the truth in love”?
How is it that after our lives get on the straight and narrow, we become judge and jury for others? That like the unforgiving debtor, who was shown mercy and forgiven a huge debt, threw someone in prison for owing him a small debt?
We may not be a Pharisee, per say, but we certainly can find their sins in our own hearts.
If we’re honest.
Today, with all of the access to books, pod casts, 24/7 television programming, conferences, preaching, teaching, Bible studies, and more, our lives are filled with knowledge.
But really, are we any different than 5, 10, 30 years ago?
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
1 Corinthians 8
The remedy for pride, self righteousness, rule promoting and law abiding, is the patient, kind, humble, honoring others sacrificial love God has loved us with.
This is my commandment: love each other in the same way I have loved you.
1 John 15:12
That doesn’t mean we don’t follow the scripture. There is so much guidance because God loves us and knows the danger of going our own way.
We follow the scripture because we love Him. Period.
Not for any other reason.
And we love others because we love Him. Period.
Not for any other reason.
When we love people the way God tells us to, we are doing far more for them than giving them the rules first, which is often what happens.
Because they need to love God first so they will keep the rules.
People get hurt in church. And far too often they are not loved the way God says to love them.
They are told, “there is no perfect church.”
Or we go to the scripture to point out where their attitude or behavior is wrong.
That is not patient, kind, honoring, and humble. It carries with it an automated response that teeters on being arrogant from all of the knowledge we’ve gained.
It is not taking the wounded and bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, or enduring all things. Instead, it is failing. And when all the prophesying, tongues of angels, and knowledge comes to an end, it is only love that will remain.
There are people in our churches who must learn to persevere and endure hardship when there are disagreements. We grow through difficulty and suffering.
But too often, people are given a solution without the validation that comes with love.
I imagine churches being so filled with 1 Corinthians 13 love, which is much harder than giving the rules, because it requires sacrifice (love your neighbor as much as you love yourself).
A place where there is patience and kindness.
A place of humility.
A place of honor.
The world is watching. Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by our love for each other.
Love defined in 1 Corinthians 13. If we want a rule, there it is.
If you have been hurt in church, don’t turn away from God.
Church is good and it is part of God’s design for you. God wants us to be committed to each other because no matter what, Jesus Christ and Him crucified binds us together, even with our differences.
Church is vital to the Christian life.
But if circumstances beyond your control have placed you in a season of not having a church, do not feel rejected, disqualified, discouraged, or labeled.
There is an old saying that’s been around for decades: Christians shoot their wounded.
Sadly, this is often true.
Love. Forgive. Be comforted.
Let God help you, guide you, and love you.
Nothing escapes God’s knowledge.
He is over all.