Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.1 John 4:11-12
Some years ago, before seminary, I had a conversation with another Christian where they were complaining. They said that the church’s problem is that they preach “too much love.” I know this seems like a strange statement, but the person was coming from a particular worldview, and what he was trying to say is that the church was becoming too permissive and ignoring scripture. I think this “complaint” was the embodiment of his fear manifested by the theological wars of the past 70 years or more that has torn the church in the western world apart.
In his book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, James Davison Hunter believes that both the right and left wings of the Christian church march forth with the same marching orders; to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Mathew 28:19). They try to achieve this through political means believing that if they can control the political culture in the name of Jesus, they will change the world. The issue is that they seldom stop to ask who the world’s real change agent truly is! This approach has led to the culture wars that undermine the message of the very gospel of the Kingdom they cherish.
Hunter proposes an alternative to either ideology. (Have you ever notice ideology is dangerously close to idolatry?) He calls it “faithful presence.” In a nutshell, being faithfully present means to live in the world without trying to be the change agent, but instead striving to love and honor God and engage the world knowing that the LORD you serve is the real change agent. Being faithfully present will reveal the God of creation, salvation, and inspiration.
Now where have we heard that before?
Today’s scripture from the Apostle John speaks of living God’s love in every aspect of one’s life. The command is to love one another as Christians. When God’s love abides in us as his church, it will flow outward into the world who will eventually see him. The good news is that he is the agent of change!
And one of the scribes…asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:28-31 esv