Love Defines Us: Connecting Our Division and Decline With Our Attitude

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ChristianDefinedAs Paul made his defense against the accusations that had been leveled against him he said this,

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today.” (Acts 22:3)

Not even the New American Standard, known for being quite literal, makes a literal translation of a very important word Paul uses here – feet. The NIV and NASB use the word “under” but the image here is sitting at someone’s feet (just as Mary did with Jesus – Luke 10:39) to be taught.

This is an image of discipleship. Over the years discipleship has been more tied to following than to sitting. Jesus had many followers who weren’t disciples so being a disciple is more than being a follower. A disciple is someone who has dedicated themselves to the teachings of their particular instructor or rabbi so that they can imitate them or “follow in their footsteps” to to speak. So when you hear someone’s disciple teach, you are most likely hearing the teachings of their rabbi because their words and actions are a direct reflection on what they received from their rabbi.

In John 13:34-45 Jesus talks about how the world can know they are truly his disciples,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is discipleship 101. When Jesus says that there is something they are to do or say that will tell the world who He is and shows they are truly His disciples it is going to boil down to the core essence of Jesus’ teaching and the actions and values that underlie them.

Jesus pointed out one thing. I would have expected Him to say love God. Instead Jesus said, “love one another.” That doesn’t mean that anything else goes as long as you are loving about it. It does mean that this one thing is of central importance and that without it all the rest is pretty much useless.

Jesus ties in the success of their mission to the quality of love one disciple has for another.

That should either encourage us or frighten us because I see a lot of enmity in the body of Christ today. As a direct result, according to Jesus, I cannot help but connect that with the fact that so many churches are in decline and so few churches are actually reaching anyone more than 1 or 2 people each year at most. Not only are churches in decline but we also have a Christian message that lacks teeth…that can’t seem to gain any traction…that the volume of the Gospel message is at a 10 but the volume of our bickering and arguing is at a 25. That just won’t work because it doesn’t reflect our Rabbi well enough to work.

Misunderstanding Love
I am convinced that a part of our problem comes from a gross misunderstanding of love in our world today that has bled over into God’s people. Love has many definitions and I am not going to try to define it here but I will say a few things I know about love. Love will cost you something because love requires you to give. Somehow as Christians we have bought into a consumer mentality in regard to how we see the church and how we see others. Consumers can never truly love the entity that provides their desired items and services from because consumers are seeking to take and that is antithetical to love. If we view Christianity as a consumer and other Christians as a consumer would, we will truly bite and devour each other that ultimately leads to mutually assured destruction (Gal 5:15).

I see Christians take things from other Christians all the time and that isn’t love. I see them try to take the dignity of others. I see them try to take the joy from others. I see them try to knock others down to exalt themselves. I don’t know where people learn that (including myself at times) except that I do know they didn’t learn that following and sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Love must define us. Jesus said so. If it doesn’t, we are disobedient and will never have the effect in this world God expects from us.

So let us love well and let us expect up front for it to cost us something. Let us be willing to pay the price, to not always get our way, to humbly respect people we disagree with while still being able to have a loving conversation about our disagreements. Let us repent of any selfish way that is found within us and turn from self-focus to others-focus. I truly believe a renewed love for one another will ultimately lead the world to listen with fresh ears to a people who actually are truly different.


Thanks to Jerry Starling for his comment on the previous post that pointed my thoughts in this direction.

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