Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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The Commandment We So Easily Ignore

Everyone’s tried to explain it. Why are our churches dying?

Do we need better sermons? Is the music outdated? What do Millennials want?

Small groups. Yes, we need small groups. But small groups don’t work. Nor do the gymnasium addition or the new youth minister.

I’m confident the problems in our fellowships are multifaceted, and that there’s not one single issue facing the American church of today.

But when we get caught up in stage design, children’s curriculum, and outreach programs, we forget what the church was really about to begin with.

The church was designed to be the most powerful single force the world has ever known—and it’s always been about the people.

When we moved to Southeast Asia, our team leader asked a question that seemed incredibly contradictory yet ironically profound:

Which would you rather be known for living out: The Great Commission or The Greatest Commandments?

Hmmph. It truly stumped me. You know why I’m here. And if you’ve read much of the Good Book, you know I wanted to respond with, Matthew 28 all the way, baby!

But wait—was there something Christ commanded of me even more than telling others about him?

It turns out, he did.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your enemies, and do good to them.
Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Love never fails.
Bear with one another in love.
Love covers a multitude of sins.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Perfect love drives out fear…we love because He first loved us.
Love binds all these virtues in perfect unity.

I’m starting to understand why love is the greatest commandment—because true, God-honoring love is just about the hardest thing our crippled, self-seeking hearts can muster.

We walk into our sanctuaries, open our songbooks, and look across the room. But our hearts don’t swell in love for our brothers and sisters.

We think about how mean they were to us in high school. Or how they probably spent too much money on that dress. Or that they shouldn’t have posted that bikini picture on Facebook.

We criticize our leaders for not leading well enough. We avoid that annoying member at all costs. And we’re offended when someone voices a belief different from ours.

How can we expect to win the world with love when we can’t even love those who have already been won? 

I confess: It is loads easier for me to love a person who doesn’t know Jesus and screws up than one who knows Jesus and screws up.

There are no expectations. There’s no standard. He’s just a poor soul lost without a way. I can throw some love at that. I might even raise money and make a t-shirt to show my love for him.

But I struggle to look at my sister {who should exhibit all the characteristics of Proverbs 31} and love her when she is selfish, self-promoting, and obnoxious.

Thank goodness for more godly women than I, who have loved me fiercely when I was selfish, self-promoting, and obnoxious recently.

They have taught me some powerful lessons, but the most beautiful one has been that Christian love does not give up on friendship. Christian love does not walk out when there are differences, and Christian love is something worth fighting for.

I’m still young, but I’ve lived enough life to watch marriages crumble, churches split, and faith-based organizations dissolve all because followers of Christ couldn’t love one another. It’s a disaster every time.

We are the redeemed. We should understand love and grace and mercy better than anyone because we have been covered by it when we were the least deserving.

AND YET WE ARE THE MOST SELFISH WITH IT.

So why aren’t our churches growing? Because we can’t fulfill the one commandment Christ asked of us over and over and over.

I don’t believe we will witness the masses falling on worshipful knees until we—the worshipers—can join in praises to the Father with our hands clasped together in the same hopeful joy.

When we dry each others’ tears and pick up each others’ junk and pat each others’ backs, then maybe someone will believe in a Savior.

When we mend each others’ hurts, forgive each others’ wrongs, and support each others’ callings, then maybe the world will decide this movement is something worth joining.

And, may I add: The enemy has no need to focus on non-believers when he can paralyze the church with dysfunctional affection.

May we never hoard a love that was meant to be shared, and may our offenses never justify our lack of support for one another.

May we never neglect the power of the greatest commandments.

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the greatest commandments

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Comments

comments

Donna King HowardJune 8, 2014 - 8:25 pm

Lauren, you are wise beyond your years. Thank you for your blog and the words of wisdom that you share in each post.

Mary Ruth Mcmasters GibbonsJune 9, 2014 - 2:27 am

Lauren, wonderful writing. Thank you for making us , the adults, THINK. Blessings.

Tony StatenJune 9, 2014 - 11:50 am

I needed to read this and be reminded. How about you? Have a great Monday.

Melanie CampbellJune 9, 2014 - 4:16 pm

Beautifully written and thank you for your sweet and loving reminders.

Kara Wadley MorganJune 9, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Lauren, how absolutely spot on you are!! Like Melanie, I thank you for your sweet and loving reminders! We need to hear it!

Richard HowardJune 10, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Wow! How true. Thanks!