The Lost Art of Love

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Beloved, let us love one another…” (1 John 4:7)

The Bible is packed full of examples and exhortations to “love one another”. And not just to love our fellow brethren in Christ, but to love all, even those who “curse you”.

This love that is spoken of so often in Scripture isn’t the love that many of us have come to know in modern society; that is, love that expects something in return. This love, that Jesus and His apostles spoke so often about, is to be a sincere love — the love that is in Christ. For His love, for He is love, is different from what many of us have come to know. His love, which indeed dwells in us, seeks to honor others above Himself.

The love that we naturally possess (apart from Christ) has limits and bounds. However, the love that He possesses and that He embodies, is the love that is found in 1 Corinthians 13. And the amazing thing about this love is the very fact that it’s not ours to show, but it is His to show through us. This comes by simple rest and trust in Him who lives in us by the Holy Spirit.

Love: the Lost Art

For many of us that have left the institutional system, we have lost something that needs so desperately to return to us: Love.

Many have been abused, mistreated, and even spiritually and psychologically damaged by many religious systems and movements. This is a fact. Also, many of us have also come to see through this mistreatment a need to return to the pattern of church practice and structure that we see in Scripture. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t get me wrong.

But, one thing that has been lost or forgotten in the process, is that we are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ — no matter what our theological or ecclesiological differences may be.

Many see the “Organic Church Movement” in a very negative light because many in this “movement” have spent countless hours speaking badly against their fellow brothers and sisters that choose to meet in traditional churches. This fact is sad and literally breaks my heart.

Many break away from the traditional system because they see the inconsistency in what they read in Scripture versus what they see in church. But after breaking away from that system, they often become what they oppose. Instead of showing by example what is right, they continue to set themselves apart from the religious system by ridiculing the people who still attend such services. They cry for unity but they divide. They claim a desire for love and acceptance, but they disown and reject.

The words of Christ are quite clear: love one another, love those who curse you; bless those who abuse you.

But this doesn’t only apply to those who are in agreement with the “Organic Church model” of doing church. It applies to all that call on the name of Jesus. That means loving and accepting those who may have different beliefs how worship is supposed to be done, how to dress, whether or not the rapture will happen, emphasis on spiritual gifts, etc. etc. The reason we have over 30,000 Christian denominations today is because we refuse to accept and love those who have opposing emphases on different matters of theology or doctrine or church practice.

The model for the church, whether you attend an institutional church or an Organic Church, is all accepting. In the words of Paul (which still have a use today), “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

Regaining that Lost Art-Form

This post is meant to be an encouragement — an encouragement to love those who disagree with you. To love those who say you are wrong and strictly oppose you with their words and actions. To love those who gossip about you, to bless them and pray for them. To love those who you may deem as “religious”. To love those that accuse you of sin or heresy, even when it hurts. And above all, to love those who misunderstand you.

Love doesn’t mean that we lose our opinions and our convictions and give in to what others are saying in order to relieve disagreement. But love seeks unity within the midst of disagreement. Love seeks patience against a violent word against us. Love seeks peace in the midst of strife and friction. This is the way of Jesus Christ and you and I are called to this way as well.

To love this way means to deny ourselves. To be silent at times we wish to defend ourselves. At other times it means to speak up and be heard.

Saints, children of God, loved by the Father, let us love one another in order to show others, believers and unbelievers alike, the way of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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26 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Love

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with you brother. It sometimes seems that criticizing other believers has become normal on FB, Twitter, Christian blogs, etc. God made me a “truth person”, and I love to speak it out. But over the years God has continued to show me that He values mercy over judgment. Love and grace draw people to Him. Judgment and criticism do the opposite. Thanks for your post Michael.

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  2. As many of us know, when we leave the old ways we lose people too. I used to balk when Frank Viola would say that we were now in the wilderness. But I see it as a precious time to deal with the hurts of years of trying to make I.C. life work.
    I find there is much grief work to be done – constantly; for there is still the on-going “pigeon-holing” that others use to “deal” with me. I’m placed in a “cubby” while others, still in the I.C, figure out what to “do” with me.
    To be angry would be to not allow myself to know the pain of love. So I “work my grief” and wait in hope.

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  3. Thanks Michael for this great reminder. Christ in us is the hope of glory. He is the love that is in us. We have been united with His life within and His life is the essence of love. When we deny ourselves we no longer identify with what the mind projects as self and therefore feel no need to preserve ourselves or react independently of Christ’s life within. We now identify with the One with whom we are forever united and we give expression to His immense love and grace.

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  4. Romans 13:6-10. We owe those around us love in a similar way that we owe debts to authorities. I think the analogy Paul uses here is awesome for two reasons

    1. In this day & age we all know the seriousness of debt.. if we don’t pay up they will come and take our TV. So using the analogy we know that this requirement to love one another is a serious one, and not just a “nice thing to do.”
    2. Another way of thinking about it is this, if our obligation to love one another is like a debt, those of us around us are /lacking/ or /missing/ something until we love them. In the same way that if you lend me $50, you are now missing $50 from your bank until I pay back to you.

    Paul goes on to say that this love fulfils the requirement of the entire Law, “love your neighbour…”. But I think another point here is this: only Christ really fulfils the law’s requirements within us. I believe he not only offers himself to pay our sin debt, but his presence within us empowers us to fulfil this requirement to love others, given that he /is/ Love. Trying to love others without him is most likely an exercise in being disingenuousness.

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  5. I have no clue what the organic church is but I do know that what you are writing is exactly what God has been laying on my heart for the past year, so I would like to say thank you for putting this out there for others as well! Now i have to go google it out of curiosity…

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  6. Ok, read a little about the organic church and thats exactly what God has put in my heart. I am really uncomfortable with the label though…its almost like tagging it as another denomination…exactly the type of thing I want to get away from. I may just not understand though, so please don’t take offense. 🙂

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  7. Whoooaahh!! ur post came up on my email a few days ago, but didn’t open it till now..and today I NEEDED this…with a co-worker who made me “angry” this morning, acutally agitated but I knew I had to humble myself as the word says…..Thank you Lord, for seeing my needs..And bless you brother for posting it. God bless you and continue to be empowered by His word.

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  8. That is beautiful, Michael. Just beautiful. One day Paul had been pelted by stones. On another he was in fastings and nakedness. On another he was shipwrecked. On another day he received 39 stripes at the hands of his fellow countrymen. Living a life like this — bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus on his body — what could possibly keep him going when he got up the next morning? I know what drove him because he cried out, “for the love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died. And that he died for all, that they who live should not any longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.” And I have a sneaking suspicion that the outpouring of Christ’s love in Stephen as the rocks cut open his body made a deep impression on an angry onlooker named Saul, who would soon thereafter encounter the living Christ on the road to Damascus.

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  9. kewl post, Michael. Glad to see how much this article is being forwarded.
    I have seen some ridicule of people who are loyal to a denomination or a pulpit. Actually, I’d expected to see much more ridicule & bitterness because of how people can be so tempted to take hurts out on others as if that would help.
    The difference for how people worship God is not significant.
    How we serve God is an important difference that’s getting some attention by these small group (organic, simple, whatnot) movements.
    To the questions: Do I serve God by obeying my senior pastor? Do I best serve God by participating in the church programs? Am I supposed to be entertained by a “worship service” so that I will want to serve Him? Is money/offerings the prime way most people should be serving God?
    some folks being sensitive enough, that well, even asking questions like these could seem to be a ridicule. What say you in Love?

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  10. This post really made me stop and think about how our world has managed to totally change the definition of love. Jesus never intended for love to be self-seeking nor selfish, but that is exactly what we have turned it into. I love when you wrote: “To love this way means to deny ourselves. To be silent at times we wish to defend ourselves. At other times it means to speak up and be heard.” Love doesn’t mean that we have to lose who we are or what be believe, it just means that we are called to be affectionate and honor those around us. Thanks for your post!!

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