We often talk about “Loving the Lost” but do we love the found?
Do we love each other?
Are our communities loving and up-building places?
Do we extend love to one another?
How about love across the divides of denominations, theology or those we disagree with?
Recently, I saw some posts on facebook about Joel Osteen, being attacked over closing his Lakeside Church in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (although he has made a public donation towards the cause). He has been criticised for not doing enough to help those suffering whilst living in a mansion and having a networth that looks like a mobile telephone number. I don’t particularly like or agree with Joel Osteen, yet I have been challenged about my response to him.
Do I tick ‘like’ the posts bashing him? After-all I want to encourage Churches to be hospitable places that welcome, love and seek to serve those around them, especially the broken, hurting, marginalised and disenfranchised?
On one level I feel somewhat smug and secure with my modest stipend and small 3 bedroomed house, criticising a wealthy man with in a 28 bedroomed mansion. It is easy for me to throw around verses from the Bible like “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person!” (1 John 3.17).
Yet, then I wondered about what a child living on refuse tip without access to clean water would say to me, with my house and income? They could with even more validity quote “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
The danger is we notice the specks in one another’s eyes but not the logs within our own eyes.
There are many clichés such as “those in glass houses not throwing stones”, or “when you point the finger remember there are three pointing back at you” and like all clichés it has a challenging truth at its heart.
Interestingly, I remember seeing a clergy colleague attacking gay marriage with large posters outside his Church, a couple of months later he was exposed having an affair, my friend told me about this in a pub by the waterfront in Bristol as a Hen-Party walked passed dressed scantily and I was reminded of two verses “judge not unless you be judged” and the words of Jesus about “even if you look lustfully at a woman it is as bad as committing adultery in your heart”.
Bishop Graham Cray spoke of sin as “there by the grace of God go I”.
It is interesting as a human beings -especially involved in pastoral work- how aware we are of others failings and completely blind we are to our own faults and failings.
The Pharisee who pours scorn on the tax collector was blind to his pride, arrogance and judgementalism.
We forget that we too are capable of sin, and are people in need of God’s grace.
Jesus said “let those who are without sin cast the first stone” -we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
Jesus said too, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples that you love one another” -yet sadly we see some spats between Christians all over social media. I remember recently being struck by one argument between John Piper and Rob Bell. Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ received a tweet from Piper saying “bye bye Rob Bell” (implying he had left orthodoxy behind and was now a false teacher). Bell responded by a Vlog talking about doctrines he agrees with and ending with damning those who “comment on books they haven’t read”. I remember thinking at the time, this edifies no one, and instead might sell copies of the book but fractures Christian unity.
This is not say that we cannot challenge one another to pursue holiness but can’t do so from a position of smug superiority but rather with humbleness aware of our sin and Gods’ awesome gracious love.
Perhaps aware too of those who listen and hear what we say and how speak about other people, particularly other Christians.
We are meant to be one family bonded and birthed in love from Christ, and yet we shame Christ by the way we squabble and fight.
I heard the other day about an inter-theological college cricket match where the Captain of the evangelical college said as they went to play the liberal catholic college “don’t worry guys we can beat them, they don’t even believe in Jesus!” Now although I am an evangelical, and I do feel really uncomfortable both with some aspects of liberal theology, but I also feel really uncomfortable with comments like this.
As Christians I’m not sure we should be at war with each other.
We are called to love our enemies, and yet sometime we can’t even love our brothers and sisters.
We are called to love the lost, when we can’t even manage to love the found.
Sometimes we are too attacking one another about where we disagree, the world only hears the argument and not the bigger and greater message of Christ.