For my first number of years as a Christian, I suffered from a lack of sound teaching. It was legalistic – try harder and do better – with just a thin veneer of grace. Consequently, I suffered with the fear that I just wasn’t good enough or likeable enough for God, and however hard I struggled to win His approval, I could never feel confident that I had. I therefore felt alienated from God and also from the church.
The understanding of the grace of God came slowly, but with it came peace and joy – a confidence that it was all about His righteousness and not my own. As I because convinced of His undying love for me, I was set free from so much that had tormented me.
However, we are saved and given this incredible free gift for a reason – to adore and serve Him gladly. We must not only bask in His love, we must also embody His love. As He has loved us, we must love others. As he has forgiven us, we must also forgive others. As He has done for us, we must do for others. Do we discard His commandments? No, we maintain it (Rom. 3:31):
· “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)
Obedience reflects our love. If we refuse to obey, it means that we refuse to love and even to trust Him. If we trust Him, we will do what He commands. If we don’t trust Him, we won’t!If we do trust Him, we will endeavor to love the brethren, and when we fail – and we will fail – we confess our sins and try again. If we are unwilling to love the brethren, then we are unwilling to love God and to follow Him:
· We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person… Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:3-4, 9)
Love is both an indication of our salvation and a duty. If we have faith, we will love the brethren. If instead we refuse, we lie and don’t know the Lord. Therefore, we must repent.
How do we love the brethren? First, by recognizing who they are – any who put their trust in Jesus, anywhere in the world!
There are tens of thousands of Christians being routinely slaughtered, especially in Muslim countries, and the Western church remains largely silent:
· Still, the response [to the genocide] remains muted. President Barack Obama could use U.S. moral authority and foreign aid leverage against countries turning a blind eye to persecution. Time magazine’s man of the year, Pope Francis, could use his Christmas message to highlight the suffering of Christians and make it a recurring theme of his papacy. It would be gratifying if the mainline U.S. Protestant churches that get so worked up every time Israel issues a permit to build a new home in the disputed West Bank could show a similar outrage backed up by a firm commitment to fight oppression of their fellow Christians.
This should be an embarrassment to us! When I raise this issue with “progressive Christians,” they shrug off their responsibility, protesting, “We are concerned about all people.” Although this is true, we have a special calling to first love the brethren:
· “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35; 17:20-24)
If we love the brethren, we also serve others by demonstrating the reality of Jesus. If we don’t love the brethren and ignore this present genocide, then we fail to attest to the reality of Jesus.
Besides, love is meaningless if it doesn’t begin at home. The husband who doesn’t love his wife, doesn’t love his children either. Instead, we best serve our children by loving our mate. We best serve the world by loving the brethren.
How do we love the brethren? By praying for them! By opening our mouths! By crying out on their behalf! By carrying placards at the UN to embarrass the offending nations! By petitioning our pastors and legislators! By flying flags outside of our churches: “Stop massacring our people!”