The church in America seems to be running on fear, and that fuel will ruin its engine. It was made to run on love. In reading 1 Corinthians 8 and I was struck by what it said.
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live. – Corinthians 8:1-6 (NLT)
We are afraid of the stock market and the economy.
We are afraid of Muslims.
We are afraid of white people, black people, and police.
We are afraid of the world.
We are afraid . . . of seemingly anything different or anything hard.
Instead of the church being salt and light and pushing back on that, we seem to be the ones most afraid. THIS is not what it means to follow Jesus and to be the church. This is not a message of hope, but one of fear – one that doesn’t come from Jesus. If the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter for him to confess Jesus was the Lord, and then Satan spoke through him to tell him he shouldn’t die on the cross . . . . Why should you or I think that we are always right, that Satan can’t speak through us as well? Satan’s words are so easy to recognize – they instill anxiety, worry, hate, fear, xenophobia.
LOVE is the outflow of Jesus in the church that makes it strong. Knowledge matters, but this is 1 Corinthians 13 – it comes nowhere close to comparing with knowledge. For most of us, those believers we want to be most like are not necessarily the smartest but those that love the most. For me, it was a very poor old man that was a deacon at a church my Father pastored when I was a boy – to this day he is the standard for me of what it means to love and follow Jesus.
GOD recognizes love – because He is love. We are made in the image of God, and that goes to the essence, not necessarily biology. Behavior shows origin more than anything. Does love flow out of me? Jesus didn’t whip people up in frenzy through fear – he healed them, called them, and calmed them in love.
IDOLATRY takes our eyes off God. When we start worshipping men be they pastors or Presidential candidates we are in idolatry. Idolatry for most American Christians doesn’t happen by going to a different religion but by trying to syncretize our desires and fears with our religion. In the 90’s, before he’s the Tim Keller we know today, I had the privilege of being at a small retreat with him and a few young pastors. He taught me something that has changed my life. Our idols are made not by what we love, but by what we fear. What we fear we try to control and ultimately, will shape God in that image in order to protect ourselves. Runaway fear creates new gods and turns us from Jesus. John writes, “Perfect love casts out fear.” That’s why in that little “love” book of 1 John, he concludes by saying “Little children keep yourselves from idols.” It seems out of place, unless you understand that he’s promoting love and challenging fear understanding our idols are made of fear.When we start worshipping men - pastors or Presidential candidates - we are in idolatry. Idolatry for most Christians doesn’t happen by going to a different religion but by trying to syncretize our desires and fears with our faith. Click To Tweet
JESUS is our model. For those of us that follow Jesus, we believe that on the cross he won the victory over sin and death for everyone forever and ever at that point in history. Thus, this is an interim period of allowing God’s kingdom to be seen on earth in us and through us. Though not perfect, though not complete, alive and transforming us and others. We have been given the ministry of Jesus in living out the Kingdom here as the “ecclesisa” or the “little colony” of Jesus’ Kingdom bringing love and hope to the world. History tells us what happens to nations driven by fear or victimhood – it isn’t pretty. Do we really think we’re immune to that?
Do we realize the world is listening? Do realize we’re impacting our witness. God forgive us.