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Christian love isn't just for Christians

Romans 12v14

28th June 2019

Recently, I've written several times about the desire in my own heart, and I expect yours too, for our churches to be healthy and safe. A church should a be kind, gentle, godly, welcoming and peaceful community, where everybody knows they're safe. We want to be able to say to everybody we meet "Come to our church. We will not hurt you. You will be safe". We want our churches to be communities where the love of God is manifest, where the power of God is released, where the Spirit of God dwells. Surely every Christian wants that. How could you not? This is what God is doing in my church at this time, and I hope He's doing it in yours.

But it does make you wonder, doesn't it, how many Christians take so long to notice that this is a good idea. It's obvious once you've seen it. Rather like the Gospel, once you've seen it, you can't un-see it. But I wish we'd seen it earlier, and I wish that all churches could see it.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, whatever church a person goes to, he will be welcome, and he won't be hurt, whoever he is?

3,000 years ago, God promised Solomon:

2 Chronicles 7v14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Healthy church begins with humility. It begins with the idea that we have no right to criticise others. It begins with the fundamental gospel truth that I am a sinner. And since I am a sinner, I have no right to criticise other sinners. You might try to play the game of "Well, I'm slightly less of a sinner than he is", but you're on really shaky ground.

There are some Christians who give the impression that they don't think they're sinners at all, they're sorted out. They're heading for such a fall! How unaware have you got to be before you think you're not a sinner? You may sometimes hear preachers banging on about how wonderful they are, and you have to wonder, "Is this guy a Christian at all?"

Romans 12 begins with offering our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, because that's the right response to the One who created us, who died to pay for our sins and redeem us, and filled us with his Holy Spirit. Then Romans 12 urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that renewal must surely involve grasping the most important Christian virtues like kindness, gentleness, sacrifice and humility.

A healthy church is loving and non-judgemental. If we get our hearts right, if we focus more on our kindness and gentleness than on other people's marital, sexual or financial problems, or anything else, if we focus on the important stuff like love, peace, truth, joy and forgiveness, then we'll be a safe and healthy church. All the other stuff is important, but this is more important. Get the fundamental Christian virtues of loving your neighbour as yourself right first.

And Romans 12 goes on to talk about loving one another sincerely, having family love, brotherly love and Christ-like love for one another. That's all quite lovely and chummy, of course. Wouldn't it be nice if we all loved each other? Well, yes of course. I'm not belittling that. That is fundamentally true. Jesus said:

John 13v35
"By this that all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another".

If you want to reach the lost for Jesus, start by actually loving one another as Christ loves us. Of course. But now Romans 12 gets a bit more difficult, because the next passage starts with these words:

Romans 12v14
Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.

I find that loving the other members of my church is rather easy. Most Christians buy into a sort of social contract whereby I will love you if you will love me. It's not hard to be nice to those who are nice to you. But as Jesus says in Luke 6v27-36, even the people we're tempted to condemn as sinners do that. These are such powerful words:

Luke 6v27-36
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Blessing those who persecute us can be really difficult. But that's real Christian love. Christian love isn't just for Christians. If we don't love those who hate us, how are we going to reach them with the Gospel?

So how to we Grow in God to the point were we can love our enemies? We'll look at that next time.