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What if every Christian loved God above all else; and, with that, loved his neighbor as himself?
Would friendships be stronger? Marriages sweeter? Families healthier? Churches more winsome and dynamic? Businesses staffed with Christian employees more productive? Governments of Christian-majority nations more just and trustworthy? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! The potential for change is unending.
So what holds us back? Why not start today? The only thing to stop it happening is me. And you. And our Christian friends. And their friends. So we have a clear pathway to follow: I start today; and you start too; and we share with our friends, and they share with other friends; and soon Christianity will once again bring life and meaning to the world.
It sounds pretty utopian, I know. I can’t change you, nor our friends, nor their friends. But why not start with us and see what happens next? There’s nothing to stop us apart from an already defeated enemy whose sole device is distraction, and our habits of enjoying his distractions. Which leads to the next question: “How to?”
God does it himself by changing our hearts. As the Bible reminds us, apart from him we can do nothing. His work is to “pour out God’s love in our hearts” and with that love our motives change. This change represents God’s Spirit with and in us as in a marriage union—see 1 Corinthians 6:17-20. So the biblical language of love isn’t some sort of ethereal love—a “willful devotion and obedience”—but a real “I care for you and find you delightful” sort of love that reflects a sound marriage.
So—knowing that his stirring is already at work in us—we turn to him and say, “Lord, I’m available . . . right here, right now!”
We will also do well to add an invitation for him to search us, to know our hearts, to see if any false values are blocking the Spirit’s work in us. Only he can deal with spiritual snags.
Next we pick up the Bible and read it from the heart—to know him better. Love needs a real person—not a noble idea, a loose sentiment, or a Christian duty—in order to form and grow. Duty and disciplines are for workers and employees. Love is a response to a lover by a lover.
The Bible gives us access to God’s loving heart: to his personality, his values, his distastes, his desires. There we meet the triune Father-Son-and-Spirit God who is drawing us, teasing us, intriguing us, and opening the “eyes of our heart” to see more and more of his glory.
I realize this is not so easy for those of us who have been “trained” as Christian: taught to view our affirmation of creeds as faith; and to see our obedience to moral traditions as signs of spirituality. Jesus comes, instead, as a living presence. He is not a creedal icon or a moral litmus, but one who invites us to a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Only when this personal connection is made will we recognize that church creeds and traditions are products of faith—in the measure the original authors knew and loved the Lord—but never its basis.
Conversation is the true measure of our faith: we speak with Christ in response to what he shares with us. After we meet him in person the Bible comes alive to us. Pages that were once opaque now become lenses we look “through” to see the one who speaks in the written words. As in any human relationship, we respond to the personalities of those who write to us and we visualize them as companions.
Prayer, then, is our response—our hearts speaking in return to the one we hear, see, and care for.
Now, let’s tie the “what if” to the “how to”. Both come together whenever we ask, from the heart: “Lord, how can I please you?”
Immature faith may ask that question once a week, on Sunday. Mature faith asks it every moment of the day. We ask it when we call a friend, knowing that Christ’s love for our friend is greater than our own. We ask when we turn to our electronic devices; when we watch a movie; when we make an appointment, plan a trip, or spend our money. We ask because he loves us and we love him.
I’m ready to go there today. You too? Be sure to invite your friends. His love is calling.