Monday, July 24, 2017

How to Love Your Neighbor - Part 3

One of the questions I have often found myself asking is:

How do people who love God and know the Bible fail so much in loving other people?

Then I look at myself. I love God. I pray. I read the Bible regularly. Even study it and commit it to memory. Yet I regularly fail in loving others.

Because I'm human. Selfish. Faulty.

This morning, another answer came to me. Could it be, at least in part, that the church has been at time (including the recent past) such as checklist culture?

It doesn't happen overtly anymore (at least on the scale it once did), but it seems to me the church adopted culture's organized, business-like tendency to keep records. I didn't grow up going to church, except when I spent the summers with my grandparents, but I remember the board at the front that kept track of the number of people present and the offering for the day. There were other categories that I don't recall. I've also heard of people talking about having checklists in Sunday school asking things about bringing their Bible, a friend, reading their Bible during the week, praying, etc. A checklist. "Did you do everything that shows you're a good Christian?"

None of these things are bad, and I believe the heart behing this kind of accountability was probably in the right place, but it was the wrong method. It checked behavior, not the heart.

Church checklists had/have good intentions, but they check behavior, not the heart. Click to tweet

Jesus cares about our behavior, but He's after our hearts. When our hearts change, our behavior will too. Not the other way around.

As I mulled over these thoughts in relation to learning to love better, I thought, "That's the problem. There's no checklist for love."

Then, I thought, "Maybe there is!"

Is there a checklist for love? Click to tweet

1 Corinthians 13 is like a love checklist. Certainly, it's not as objective as "Did you read your Bible? Did you bring a friend? Did you bring an offering?" However, according to what I read in scripture, it's a much more important checklist.

We can mark off all these "good Christian" behaviors every day of our lives and never be changed by the Holy Spirit or love others better - or in other words, live out the greatest commandments given by the Lord.

The first few verses of 1 Corinthians tell us this: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

None of our actions mean anything eternal without love. Not even the best we can put forth. Click to tweet

The checklist for what love looks like comes immediately after the verses above. These are what we're going to focus on for the next few weeks. Because they show us how to love - our neighbors, our family, our coworkers, our world.

In my last post, I promised to get to the first of these love characteristics today, but alas, once again my plan has gotten derailed. That's okay, though. God's plan is even greater!

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Next time, next post, we'll talk about how to love patiently (God-willing, by His grace and for His glory).

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