Because it is the main virtue missing in the Evangelical church today.
I know that sounds harsh and unkind. I am also aware that many would dispute this by making the claim that they are active in a very loving church. To my detractors, I wish to offer you the following challenge.
Identify your church gossip. Every church has at least one or more. Sometimes they disguise themselves as “prayer warriors” or are involved in the church phone “prayer chain”. Sometimes they start a conversation with “I am not gossiping, I am just concerned about…” Trust me, they are there.
After you find him/her drop some hints that you have been questioning whether or not the Genesis creation stories should be taken literally. That you believe the theory of a worldwide flood, and Jonah and the fish are to be taken as allegory, not literal, or that you think that the scenario of the end times as popularized by Tim Lahaye in his Left Behind series is a fairy tale. The more conservative your “loving church” is, the sooner you will see a new Sunday school class or hear a sermon series skewering the questions you were pondering.
Are you a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, elder, deacon or in another leadership position in the “loving church” you attend. Let others in leadership know that you have been donating to Planned Parenthood for the last few years because you believe that poor women should have access to mammograms, and other disease preventing services. Tell them you enjoy reading the works of Christopher Hitchens, or Carl Sagan, as you find them very thought-provoking. Tell them you support marriage equality. Tell them you voted for President Obama in 2008. Then tell me what happened to the position of leadership you previously held.
Are these challenges too intense, well try this next one.
Visit at least three other Evangelical churches in your area, and outside of the mechanical greeters that hand you a bulletin and shake your hand while pulling you through the door, see how many people approach you and engage you in conversation that lasts longer than 2 minutes. For a real challenge attend a church for a month and see if anyone asks you to lunch after the service, or attempts to befriend you. I promise you will be disappointed.
There was a phase bantered around churches for a while, maybe it still is, that “love is a verb” meaning that our actions will prove the sincerity of words of love. I have a new phase that I think is more befitting of current evangelicalism.
“love is a facade”
9 thoughts on “Why Do I Harp On Love? (pt.1)”
Gosh. Sometimes you make me laugh and sometimes you make me cry! This time you did both. I used to know a woman, the wife of the senior Pastor who used to corner me–as a junior pastor–and say, “Now you know I don’t get involved with gossip but you need to know the truth.” I was too young and not bold enough to address it directly. I laughed it off.
Then when you started on about church greeters, I became sad. Didn’t actually cry but I’ve often found those greeters to be filters aiming to find out exactly how to categorize me–was a a Christian by their church’s definition. (Surprising that we don’t all have the same definition?) I actually had one who despite greeting for a “non-denominational” church, proceeded to show me a statement of faith that was so long and complicated, it would have been sufficient to define a denomination of their own. The message clearly was: “This is who we are and if your not like us, you don ‘t belong here.” I’m sure they have long drawn-out meetings about why their church isn’t growing.
You are absolutely correct in this piece. And I’m with you, brother. It’s all about love.
You are absolutely correct that is about being in the “In Group”, just like high school. If you don’t fit we, at the least ignore you, or at the worst, mock and ridicule you. The evangelical church is in such a place.
The problem is we fail to understand just because we define ourselves as loving or believe our actions and words are loving doesn’t mean people feel loved by them.
One can be mean, hateful or at least inhospitable without intending to be so. And who gets to define whether we are being loving, acting loving, etc? Can we really be the ones who define it? We are not objective when it comes to ourselves. And the truth is, if the people around us we supposedly are loving do not feel loved, well, have we actually loved?
We will not take into consideration the feelings of those who do not feel loved by our words and actions because we hide behind our Bibles and say we are just telling people the truth, IN LOVE, about themselves and they are rejecting the gospel.
The truth in love to my evangelical brothers and sisters is that those you are claiming are rejecting the Gospel because they do not like to be told the truth are in many cases rejecting us for being arrogant, and self righteous by thinking that we have the RIGHT to go up to anyone and just let them know the “truth’ about themselves. They would more than likely listen to Jesus, but they will have nothing to do with us.
Mark, do you think there is a difference between love and acceptance/tolerance? If you do, what does that look like?
Unconditional love, as I have said a thousand times before does not look for what is wrong with the other person. There are people that I know that do things to themselves and others that I would not agree with but it is NOT my job to change them. It is to accept them as they are and love them.
There are many people I have known that are active drug users. But you want to know something, they are just like me. They have struggles and fears and hope and dreams for themselves and their children.
Do I think that smoking crack 8 times a day is good for them? No. But the unconditional love of God through Jesus compels me to love them without condition. So, I listen and when asked, offer advice and ideas that might help them. I accept them as is because if I do not I will never have a relationship with them. When a person sees this, they will want to know more because they know I accept them and their brokenness right where they are, they will open up, and they will seek to know the love of God.
Thanks Mark, I appreciate your response but I’m not sure you really answered my questions. Or perhaps I may not have been very clear in what I was asking. I don’t ask to pick a fight or be a pain but I do wonder about this as it seems our culture defines love as being accepting or tolerant of all ideas and beliefs and I don’t think that’s the way the Bible defines it. I totally agree that we should NOT be pridefully condemning people who are broken sinners (i.e. all of us) but is there a time when love exists without acceptance or tolerance?
acceptance and tolerance of the person? or of the actions? That is important for you to define.
My grandfather, father, mother, etc. accepted me and tolerated me and loved me even when I did wrong. They never cast me out or left me out. But I knew when I did wrong and when I disappointed them.
People can know I disagree with them–their ideas, their actions–but that I love them, accept them and tolerate them as a person. One does not have to stop accepting a person and fellowshipping with a person if they disagree with them or their actions.
I would add…that because I knew I would always be loved and always be welcome in my grandparents home and parents home–I was free to acknowledge to them and “repent” of my wrong doings. I turned myself in on more than one occasion when I had not been caught doing wrong because I knew I was safe and loved.
If we do not create a safe place where people feel loved and valued over our doctrine, dogmas and politics, how do we really expect to produce repentance–true repentance not just “damn I was caught” repentance?