Michael B Linton

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We are one in the bond of love...

In my Bible reading a couple of days ago, I read through Colossians. In case you're wondering, my Bible reading plan is a New Testament book per day. 27 books is less than 30 days, so I have a few extra days to cover the longer books. It's not an intensive study of each book; rather, I dwell a few minutes on passages that jump out at me. The goal is absorption through repetition. I also try to read 5 Psalms a day and 1 chapter in Proverbs. Three months of the year I read through the Old Testament, minus Psalms and Proverbs. Moving on... A passage in Colossians leapt out at me.
Colossians 3:14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Beyond what things? Well, the previous verses say...

Colossians 3:12-13 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

So, if I read this correctly, we as Christians (the church) are to have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and be forgiving. But above all this, love is the perfect bond for the church.

So you say, "Michael, this is silly. Everyone knows that the most important thing in the church is love. Duh!" Not so fast, blog-reader. Everyone apparently does not know that. I know personally of a pastor who does not believe this. He routinely mocks and derides as weak churches that "just looooove everybody". The most important thing is truth, not love. And, please, don't misunderstand. This is not "speaking the truth in love", as Ephesians 4:15 commands us. Love is not even considered a part of the truth.Christians are to love: the saved and the lost. Without love, we have no "community" in the church. Without love, evangelism becomes a rote exercise, accomplished in order to win brownie points with God. We are never told to be truthful but not love the person with whom you are sharing the truth.

The result of truth without love is a church that, ultimately, can allow no one in, except for those who, living in the height of arrogance, think they have perfectly attained the truth. A church like that exists. Members are allowed to join based solely on the pastor's opinion of them. Approved activities are based on whether or not they attract so-called "undesirables". Does this sound like a church? No. It sounds like the Pharisees. The church should be after the undesirables, because that's who God desires. The church is not the place for those who have it all together, but that was the model for this particular church.

Now, I'm not talking about membership in the church, being a part of the body of Christ. That is based upon salvation and obedience, not the vote of a church or pastor. However, I am talking about allowing the people that need the gospel most to darken the doors of the church. In the church mentioned above, people were escorted out the door and told never to come back. Why? Because they were rude, loud, often drunk, labeled as trouble-makers or had some other characteristic deemed undesirable. Are there times that drastic measures need to be taken to ensure safety in the church? I think so. Were these people beyond the help of the gospel and our church? Only if you think you have all the answers and can perfectly discern the mind of God and the souls of men.

Is my point here to bash a church? No, it's for the reader to understand why I vehemently say that Summerlake will not be this way. We will have plenty of issues with trouble-makers, loud-mouths, and generally bad folks. But that's the lost for you, acting like sinners. But that's who we are after. If it offends the pious deacon that a hooker stumbles across our church in her work clothes, he can leave, not her. She doesn't know any better than to look in the church for hope in the middle of her worst-case scenario. The pious deacon definitely knows better, or least should know better, than to expect a sinner to behave like a Christian. We have to have the ability to reach people where they are. We also have to be willing to walk a long path to get them there. And it will take a lot of love, along with the truth, to do it.

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