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Topic: COMMENTARIES by S. Michael Craven

Is Loving Our Neighbor Merely a Means to End?

February 25, 2008
S. Michael Craven
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In response to last week’s article They Love Jesus; They Don’t Like the Church, I received the following inquiry from an earnest brother who was wrestling with some of the issues raised in my article.  

I would really appreciate a few specific questions to help me measure whether or not I am part of the problem. I read this commentary, and I’m moved by it in a few different directions. I believe I’m not totally off-base in having convictions about the moral problems of these years and about the relevancy of political involvement. But it is difficult to really examine that without some objective input, and that might be assisted by some thought-provoking specific questions.

I so appreciate the humility of this man as he considers seriously the questions that my article attempts to raise. Frankly, this is rare. I hope I have a similar humility when considering any challenge to my own thinking. That doesn’t mean that everything I write and say should be taken as gospel truth, certainly not! I am simply trying to provoke deeper thinking and discussion into matters of faith and culture by asking difficult and sometimes controversial questions. This is one of the many purposes of the Body of Christ. The Church should diligently wrestle with and discuss the Scriptures, the mission of the Church, and how we are to express our faith in the various cultural contexts into which we are placed. This is often what I am trying to do as it relates the area of contemporary American culture.

In grappling with the questions raised in my article, this very thoughtful man articulates what may be a common obstacle to the missio dei. He writes:

My tendency is to desire more direct proclamation of the Gospel and a discussion of its relevance in the broader social turmoil around the value of human life, covetousness and materialism, lust for pleasure and self-gratification, and our nationalistic pride and presumption.  The latter tends to place me in the camp of being against many things, and I've recognized that before, so my practice has been to strive to be relational and compassionate.  However, this can be frustrating because our society rather accepts compassion as the value of every good citizen, so it does not differentiate the service of a Christian from that of a non-believer. I don't feel right about assuming that because I follow Jesus, others are going to take notice of Him when I am doing what, in their pride, they believe every good person should be doing anyway. And yet to differentiate myself, what can I do but return to the ubiquitous personal sin problem and how the Gospel message both answers the human need and also recognizes God's justice in judging sin and calling for repentance. It is a difficult problem.

This brother raises an important question: “Do ‘good works’ and loving thy neighbor fall short if they are not accompanied by a direct proclamation of the gospel?” I think there is much confusion on this point and many may feel as if they are guilty of compromise if they fail to use such opportunities to share the gospel.

The first thing I would offer is that we place everything we do under the sovereignty of God. Meaning, we do “good works” and love others because we are commanded too, not merely because we are trying to create opportunities to “share the gospel.” We work to alleviate pain and suffering because God cares deeply about those who suffer. We are, by grace, given love for people because they are all precious to God. We should avoid the ulterior motive of doing good in order to “differentiate” our service from that of a non-believer as this is often seen as inauthentic and self-righteous. It can be received as if “You are only doing this so I’ll join your church or religion” when the response should be “Why do you care about me”?

I would add that unbelievers are equally capable of compassion and mercy because they still bear the image of God and we should be the first to celebrate their good works when they do. However, we often we look at these with suspicion as if their good works are not equal to ours. Granted, their motivations are different and sometimes self-serving but the God who is sovereign also uses them to bring relief and comfort just as He uses us.

We do good because we are called too and not as a means of orchestrating some outcome of our own design. We are not God and we cannot know our part in God’s redemptive work in the life of another—some sow and some harvest.

As Christians we work to mitigate the effects of sin in the world and trust that God, in His sovereignty, will reveal Himself to others through us as He so chooses. This is the essence of what it means to be “missional.” Certainly, we want our lives and actions to point to Christ and whenever possible, we share the story of God’s redemptive work on behalf of humanity through Jesus Christ. We love others because “He first loved us” and so we focus on meeting real needs of real people in His name and we do NOT reduce this to a means to an end. According to Jesus, loving our neighbor is an end in and of itself. It is a part of our being obedient to Christ. I think we often get this wrong.

I think this very attitude can make the church look false. People are smarter than we give them credit for. They know when they are being manipulated and when we approach them through acts of “love and mercy” as merely a means to an end, they know it, and this is not love. It is when we say nothing about their lives that they will often open up. (We form a relationship first.) We love and accept people and sometimes, this is when we can share the Truth. This is when we have earned the right to speak into their lives and we do so waiting on the Lord, “always being ready to give an answer for the hope within us.”

God is sovereign and it is God who saves; we simply love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength – if we do this they will soon know whose name we come in – and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus doesn’t say “love your neighbor so you can share the plan of salvation,” simply “love your neighbor.”  Furthermore, we know that in order to do this, we need His grace—THIS is what bears testimony to the Truth; not us.

So, again I offer these words for consideration: Do good works and loving our neighbor necessarily have to include a direct gospel proclamation to be worthy, or is it enough to love our neighbor as ourselves and trust the Lord to assign our part in His redemptive work?

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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Responses
Response from : George Cooley  

February 25, 2008 8:37 AM
 

Michael,
I believe the single largest issue in the church today is the body of Christ is NOT sharing their faith. I challenge believers by asking them when was the last time someone who was a believer shared their faith with you outside the walls of the church? I am 57 years old and I remember when I was 20 years old and a unbeliever ... it seemed like strangers would share thier faith with me more often. I was told to consider Philemon verse 6 a few years ago. WOW! how it has helped me to understand all the good things I have in Christ! I could tell you many stories of what a sharing mindset can do for a Christian but the part we will see on the other side will be the greatest blessing ! In every era and in every culture it takes boldness to share but wee should also never underestimate the power of God's word--hand someone the Gospel of John today and trust the Lod with the outcome. Imagine in the next 24 hours every Christian in the world handing someone a Gospel!

in HIs grip
George Cooley



 
Response from : Wayne Groefsema  

February 25, 2008 8:42 AM
 

I had not thought about loving my neighbor or doing good works in this way before, but as I look back on how I have tried to live it out I can see there are times I have had a hidden motive. I could say that rather than doing just as Jesus said to do, I have felt that I have also added the need for a gospel presentation of sorts. Rather than trusting God to do His part, salvation, I have tried to jump in especially when it relates to a grown daughter who didn't grow up with me. Adding onto loving my neighbor made me think of the pharisees and how Jesus got on them and the other religious leaders for adding onto God's law for their own self-serving ways.


 
Response from : David Evans  

February 25, 2008 9:31 AM
 

I certainly agree with the premise of your article and that we are to love people and serve people simply because the Lord told us to do that. But doesn't He also tell us to do that in His Name? Even a cup of cool water is to be given in His name so that He gets the glory? And aren't we commanded to let our light so shine so that when people see our good works our Father in Heaven will be glorified? People's spiritual needs must be our highest concern and goal as we establish a relationship and love them. Otherwise we may just be "working hard to make the world a better place from which people can end up going to hell." (I believe that is from the late Adrian Rogers)


 
Response from : Chris Sinclair  

February 25, 2008 9:36 AM
 

Your last three paragraphs summarize this dilemma very accurately. The command is straight forward, "Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself." Unfortunately, many of us in the Church get discouraged when we see people obviously using service to others as nothing more than a gimmick to allow them to present their agenda of presenting the Gospel message. But God's timing is perfect, and we are being presumptive to assume we have inside knowledge of just when the time is ripe to present the Gospel. As a result, we turn people away in our attempt to give ourselves a pat on the back for being "so bold" as to tell others about Jesus. We certainly would be wise to serve with no other motive than to serve others as we are commanded to do, while always being alert to the opportunities God truly provides for us to present the truth of Christ. Yet, we are being presumptive, as well as somewhat dishonest in our intentions, to assume that our service will always open doors so that we can achieve our ulterior motive. We simply cannot tell what will be the specific event that opens that door; it could be service, a simple comment, the repeating of a favorite quote, or even a tragic event. However, if we ignore the building of a relationship first, we greatly diminish the likelihood that God will open a door for us. Even Jesus spent considerable effort building relationships. If He, as a performer of miracles, found it important to first build relationships, why would we presume as mere mortals we could do anything less.


 
Response from : Greg Williams  

February 25, 2008 10:10 AM
 

Mr. Craven

Excellent questions by your reader and responses from you! One of the things that I have found in growing in my walk and Loving God with all I am and seeking Him with all my heart and His Kingdom and righteousness first and above all else is that it becomes easier and easier to spot the Truth and the deception. Your presentations and clarifications are very much rooted in Scripture. Thanks for bearing the Truth even if it is not the "complete Gospel" as you aptly explained in your reply. Acts 17: 11 gives some insight, I believe to this element of character in seeking and finding the Truth which fits into your excellent explanation in this article.

On a related note, wonder what you thought about the following articles: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/007/smith-oprah.htm (just copy and paste if it doesn't make it through as a link) and this brief one by Chuck Colson (article to follow):

Colson calls American church back to basics
Allie Martin - OneNewsNow - 2/22/2008 1:00:00 PM
A leading evangelical Christian says the church in America is being seduced by the comforts of modern culture. And life should be a pursuit of holiness and not happiness, says Chuck Colson.
In his newest book The Faith, Colson says many Christians in America do not have a proper view of sin, redemption, mercy, and grace. He believes many Christians cannot defend their faith because they do not know what they believe -- nor do they have a right view of the role of the church.

"We think the church kind of helps us get through life. We don't look at it as God's own structure for doing his work on earth that he entrusts us with," describes Colson. "We don't have a high, holy view of the church and of exactly what happened at the cross, which is an exchange of identities. It's not I who live, but Christ who lives in me, for I've been crucified with Christ." (Galatians 2:20)

Colson also says it is unfortunate that people do not have a firm grasp on the true meaning of salvation either. He says he questions some people's claims of salvation because he sees no spiritual fruit in their lives, and he encourages them to get back on track with living like Christ.

In his book, Colson says true Christians -- instead of focusing on happiness -- will strive to live lives of holiness.

-- End of article --

Finally, I host local radio spots entitled, "Character Minute" and the March spots (4 per month building on a character trait with all traits flowing from the one eternal trait - God's Love)focus on Compassion. The reason I include this in response to your article and this gentleman's astute questions is that I believe it speaks to the whole issue that all is truly spiritual (the world has 'duped' many into compartmentalizing into secular and spiritual) due to the fact the "Eternity is placed in the hearts of men", according to Eccl. and your reply about the remnants of Creation as God designed it to be. We are also called to be "cunning as serpents and gentle as doves" in dealing with the "wolves in sheep's clothing" in this world and our good works and careful handling of Truth are part of this!

If you are interested in hearing my most recent spots (one minute each) that have been favorably compared to a cross between Focus on the Family's 'Family Minute' and Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" (which is exactly what the Lord laid on my heart when the radio station approached me about doing something along these lines), please let me know, and if so, how I can get the MP3 format to you.

The latest one on "Compassion" speaks a lot to your response and also compares the 'false compassion' of this culture and politics with the real compassion that is both short-term in meeting needs and long term in discipling and equipping others to mature! I can also send scripts if you're interested. We actually have a couple of groups that may be interested in taking these to a regional or national level.

If you have any thoughts once you've heard them (if you desire and have the time) I welcome them so please let me know.

Just wanting to be used of the Lord as it is all in His hands!

Sorry for the length of this but just felt like it was a good connection with your recent articles.

Thanks again for all you do for Truth that is Christ and His Kingdom! God bless in Christ!

In His service

Greg Williams


 
Response from : Dave Allburn  

February 25, 2008 10:17 AM
 

We're mailmen, not sales-closers.

http://www.safeharborresources.org

 
Response from : Jeannie Bargen  

February 25, 2008 10:59 AM
 

Truly loving my unbelieving friend, neighbor or sometimes even a stranger would lead me to share the gospel in a spirit of gentleness. Nobody wants to say it outloud anymore, but the future eternal home of my neighbor is more important than a piece of bread. Thank-you.


 
Response from : Karen Stratis  

February 25, 2008 1:06 PM
 

Michael, I am extremely concerned about where you are going with this and what your thinking is. I would encourage you to conduct an experiment on yourself. Stop reading any other books, other than the Bible, and see how the Holy Spirit leads you. I have read in your last article as well as this one, some thinking that is contrary to Scripture and I couldn't disagree with you more that we are called to have these "discussions" and debates (in essence being a "devil's advocate" Does the devil really need an advocate?) Anytime I hear the word "relationship" or "realtional" it causes alarm. This is the philosophy of the Emerging church which is promoting Mysticism, New Age thinking and Eastern religions. Many, many people are falling for this false doctrine. Most of these people refer to themselves as evangelicals. Have you become one of them? You offer the advice that "when we say nothing about their lives, people open up to us" (we form relationships). A true friend is the one who tells you what you NEED to hear. There are very few times in my life that I have made changes based on "self revelation", but rather because someone cared enough to hold me accountable. One cannot be saved until they recognize they are a sinner and in this age of permissiveness the very word "sin" is off limits. We give the gospel message and people either accept it or reject it. To think that your "relationship" with them is going to make a difference is arrogant. In fact it could be the very thing that keeps them from Christ. Also, You may not have time to form a "relationship" , God may require their life THAT DAY. Then what? This is a lie from the devil that is keeping Christian after Christian silent. God called us to spread the Gospel, not build relationships. Rick Warren recently spoke to a Jewish group regarding this very thing. Apparently it is more important to Mr. Warren to "build community" and "relationships" than to convert. Please do not fall into this trap. My other concern is to your article entitled They love Jesus but they hate the church. (referring to young people) What Jesus? The ones they have created for themselves, the one that lets them live their lives anyway they desire? or the one in the Bible? Of course young people hate churches that proclaim the Word of God without apology. It cramps their style. They hate being unpopular, yet the Lord told us that the world would hate us as it hated Him. It is to be expected. We can love and not offend people right into hell. Yes, the Gospel is an offense, but it has the power to save. Christians need to get back to the Word of God and ONLY the Word of God as their roadmap to life. Jesus never put relationships above his purpose. Yes, eternal life IS the point. I strongly disagree with the characterization that we are individuals only concerned with avoiding hell. After all, what are we "saved" from? Sanctification is a process that comes after we are saved. I am not an old person, but I am also not of the "younger generation". Frankly, I can't believe the way churches are bending over backwards for the young people and abandoning godly principles in the process. (Perhaps because they suffer from the same desire to be "likeable" instead of "biblical") I don't see many young people sold out for Christ (except of course the Christ I spoke of earlier who is the one they have created for themselves) and I agree with the gentleman who commented that the Bible instructs the elder people in the church to lead and to teach the younger generation, only they refuse to be taught. I see a generation of spoiled brats who are critical of things they do not fully comprehend and do not have the life experience to comment on. Where is their humilty? If they really love people as they say they do, they would just tell them about Jesus and what he did for them and leave the miracle of salvation up to God. There is no being who loves more than God, yet the world hated him so much they crucified Him. This generation is confused about their role in the world and the response they are getting from the world. Unfotunately, as the Bible also advises us, the world will only grow increasingly hostile as we approach the second coming of our Lord. This generation is faced with a tremendous burden. We did not choose to "politicize" our beleifs, rather it has been thrust upon us. If we are to stand for Christ we have no choice. We are under attack like never before and it would behoove us to unite under our Lord and Savior. I don't see how attacking faithful believers and mischaracterizing them as "anti-homosexual", unloving dictators serves a better purpose? Are you sure that defending the behavior and attitude of young people is the right thing to do? How about instructing young people to respect their elders? Maybe if they could open their hearts and minds they could learn a thing or two, like discernment and they could grow the courage and charcter it will take to win the lost. We do love young people and we want the best for them, but loving doesn't mean giving in to their every whim. (Just like you wouldn't do to your own children). I love them enoough to tell them what they need to hear. I've been a Christian for a long time and I have seen a lot of trends come and go as I am sure many others who have been lumped into this category can agree, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. If they don't like our message, perhaps it is because they are really not as in love with Jesus as much as they say they are.


 
Response from : Cecilia Dean  

February 25, 2008 1:49 PM
 

I struggle sometimes with these very issues. Do I "love others" because He first loved me, or because I claim to be a Christian, therefore, I'm "supposed" to do this. I have non-Christian friends that I'm very close to. They do confide problems with me; because we have built a relationship. And I'm grateful to the Lord for that. But there's something in my background that says loving them isn't going to get them into the Kingdom. Part of my denominational background says I need to take them down the Roman Road. So it is a dilemma. Your last question is one that I will have to answer.


 
Response from : Millie  

February 25, 2008 3:15 PM
 

I couldn't agree more with what you wrote. I have heard it said before that it is a sin to bore kids with the gospel. By the same token, the job of the church is not to become the next entertainment medium. It's the age old challenge of allowing the Spirit of God to move, to truly be alive and dynamic. To not confine God to the bricks and mortar of our church walls (institutionalism), but be a forum, that 'fount for every blessing' where believers can draw from His Word, be challenged, and grow. As we read throughout history, what we face is not a new challenge. The bible warns us of being lukewarm. Human nature prompts us towards that comfort zone, but God leads us to a place of trusting Him, 'dancing on the edge of Heaven' :-) and continuing our walk in the path of righteousness. We can't walk the walk if we don't know the Word.

By and large, much of the observations and opinions that are held by today's generation have some basis, and it is our duty as believers to work at making it not so. Yes, shallow. Yes, politicized. Yes, judgemental. Yes, non-loving. The only way to make sure that this is not the case, is if those who comprise the church are not this way. It seems funny to have to say this, but what the church needs is for Christians to truly live as Christ.

Sin is not sin because we say it is so. One can acknowledge this reality, or ignore it, but it doesn't change what it is. Our job is not one of definition, but of expression: to be the hands and feet of Jesus. When Jesus walked this earth, He was full of life, of passion, of conviction. He bucked against the status quo. He illuminated the truth rather than making exceptions or explanations of the adaptations and amendments.

... I started this reply to you LAST Monday morning, here I am a week later ;-)
Loved your article from today as well. I was actually at a coffee shop yesterday and was overhearing a discussion between these 2 twenty-somethings about their faith, church, etc. Then Jordan (my 6 year old) wanted to move to the soft comfy chairs and I was out of earshot :-( I should have picked up the conversation later, but didn't. Again you hit the nail on the head about good works. Do our attempts to differentiate what we as Christians do vs even a well-intentioned non-believer create some level of hypocrisy? I reflect on my own experiences, attitudes, motivation. When I was younger, it was as if everything had to balance out and make sense to me. Coming a little farther along in my walk with Christ (and what I hope to teach my children) I desire to give and do from a pure heart. No strings, no "alterior motive", and as you said, if God orchestrates the circumstances, that I would be ready to provide the reason for the hope that I have in Christ Jesus.

Steven Curtis Chapman has an amazing new cd that was released last October. 3 of the songs I love really speak to this topic... you should check em out if you don't know them already. "Broken", "We Are (the Children of God)" and "You are being loved". We share a common humanity (sinful and broken), we are all created by a loving Creator, we are precious in His sight, and He loves us RIGHT here at this very moment. This message is for everyone, not just those who step through the doors of a church building on Sundays.

Thanks again for a thought provoking update.


 
Response from : Jim Rayburn  

February 25, 2008 4:25 PM
 

Countless thousands of people over the years have been turned away from an open-minded consideration of Christ due to someone "sharing the Gospel" with them at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Jesus was winsome and we as his followers must be winsome as well if we are to present the Gospel in a way that will be open-mindedly considered. The Apostle Paul said to "Walk in wisdom towards those that are without." My father, founder of a work known as Young Life, coined the phrase, "Winning the right to be heard." Oh that we Christian people would be more loving, wiser, and more discerning of the time when it comes to verbally sharing our faith. Heaven's no, acts of kindness do not need to be accompanied by a verbal presentation of our theological viewpoints. Let's walk in wisdom towards those outside the faith, discern the right timing, winning the right to have our opinions considered, and be a winsome followers. A winsome follower of Christ will win others over and a non-winsome follower will turn folks away. But no matter how winsome one may be, timing is everything when it comes to verbal proclamation. Be wise and seek the Spirit's leading. A poorly timed and unwinsome presentation turns people away.


 
Response from : George Cote  

February 25, 2008 7:21 PM
 

I believe the Christian community in general is missing the key to this dilemma. When we look at the two trees in the garden of Eden, we find the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Gods' choice was for us to choose life. By choosing to eat of the knowledge of good and evil, death entered into every living creature on this planet. That choice remains with us today. When we choose to do "good" things, are we any different than Adam and Eve? Do we accomplish anything by changing from the branch of evil to the branch of good? Is it not the same tree with two branches of fruit that produces the same result, death? It makes no difference if you eat of the branch of "good" or "evil", they both produce the same result. So what is the Christian to do?
God sees choices as life vs death rather than good vs evil. Jesus showed this in not getting involved in the great moral questions of the culture of His day(slavery, totalatarian rule, injustice at the hands of priests, etc etc). Rather than entangling Himself in the debate of good and evil, He spoke truth into the heart of men and women. When the heart is touched, people change. How did He do that? By only doing what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). His desire is that we do the same. When our desire is to watch the Father and what He is doing, His will is accomplished and the enemy is completely defeated. Anything that we attempt of our own thoughts and actions regarding good vs evil is nothing more than what transpired in the Garden of Eden.
If we are to impact our generation, it will only be accomplished by the Father and not anything that we deem is "good".
I am sure it is every Christians' desire to change the world for the better, but can it be done through "our" good works?
Our righteousness ("good works") is as filthy rags. It is only through the piercing truth from the Eternal One that we can truelly impact our culture.


 
Response from : Dianne Hoofard  

February 25, 2008 8:08 PM
 

Michael,
I have struggled with this very question, and the answer I have encountered is the love of Jesus himself. Previously I had a very intellectual understanding of Jesus, the Bible and my responsibility. I asked these very same questions and wondered how in the world I could actually act in love and distinguish myself as being a follower of Christ. What I have recently learned, is just how much Jesus really loves me, and have made an emotional connection with Him that is very different from my intellectual connection. Because I am so in love with Jesus, and know that He is likewise in love with me, I see people differently. I want to love them as Jesus loves them, full of love and appreciation for who they are. As I love them, I want to pray for them, that Jesus will see the love He has for them and be radically changed. And that is where God and the Holy Spirit do the sowing. I believe it is not enough to do good works, but to couple good works with prayer and a genuine, Christ-centered love will effectively open the door for Christ to at least be discussed. So I fall in the camp that good works, with prayer and love, is enough to open ourselves to Christ's redemptive work in the lives of our neighbors. I think the discussion will happen as their heart is prepared. And sometimes it will take years and lots of cups of water in the name of Christ to get them interested. But I think good works without prayer and Jesus' love are, as they say, sounding gongs and clanging cymbals. Jesus' love endures, and shows up in the most undesirable places. That's when Jesus' light can really shine best.


 
Response from : Yolanda  

February 27, 2008 9:05 AM
 

I am new to your articles and this website. I am glad I found them or rather they found me. Even though the Gospel of Jesus is truly "good news" many are not ready to receive it. At least not in the context of what alot of people consider "born again" Christian belief. It is more important that our actions speak for themselves. No manipulation, no unspoken intentions. Just loveing our neighbors because they are Gods children too. Whether believers or not. Actions will always speak louder than words, that is why Jesus showed us He loves us on the Cross.


 
Response from : Rolley Haggard  

February 27, 2008 11:59 AM
 

Michael,

Many of us can relate to the aphorism, “Christians don’t have friends, they have ministries.”

It is possible to take something good and put it in place of what is best. Isn't that exactly what we are doing? Our emphasis on missions, evangelism, discipleship, and the Great Commission is good, but it is not best. There is a “Greater Commission”. Jesus called it the First and Great Commandment, and added (at no extra charge) that “the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:38-40). Paul later paraphrased Christ by declaring “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Someone has said, “it is possible to do evangelism without loving, but it is not possible to love without doing evangelism.” We already know the remedy to our failure. But how unskilled, and, remarkably, how loath we are to put it into practice. Our excuses are good:

1. “Love, love, love” is the mantra of liberals.
2. Souls are more important than bodies, hence evangelism trumps all.

3. And, as Tony Woodlief of World Magazine notes in his review of the book unChristian, “we get so caught up in loving and affirming everyone in our path that we forget the unchanging law of God.”

4. All the “good works” connected with loving make it appear we are seeking to be saved by works. Sticking to evangelism makes it plain we believe you are saved apart from any works of righteousness.

It ought to sting our hearts that Christ held up a non-Christian as a model for the kind of love He had in mind. The Good Samaritan loved lavishly, unselfconsciously, without any expectations. He evidently didn’t keep a list of excuses. We, on the other hand, cannot bring ourselves to even articulate what was implicit in the Samaritan’s actions: people are infinitely precious. I suspect the awful truth is, we don’t really believe it. The best we can muster is, “people have infinite worth because they are made in the image of God.” Tell me, you who are parents, do you love your wayward son or daughter because they are made in the image of God, or because they are infinitely precious? The cross declares that God literally – literally – loves us more than His own life. Yet how often is that undiluted statement found in any of our confessions? How often is it sounded from our pulpits? How often is it the theme of a song or a testimony or a topic in our small-group meetings? Do we fear we might overstate His love? If we fear that, then we shall never love as He loves, and people will always be heads to mount on heaven’s walls.

Thanks for your faithful voice of conscience to those who are listening.

RKH


 
Response from : Mark Mathias  

February 27, 2008 12:10 PM
 

Well stated Michael. I believe you nailed it is this article. I would also like to acknowledge your appreciation of humility. Humility, tempered by His love -- where the ego is not the gate-keeper, is the only condition that I believe positions us to actually conform to our Lord's Image.
As we become successfully imbued with the Lord's mindset we yield to the prevailing realities of our immediate circumstances. I have found this to be important to avoid clumsiness in trying to fulfill the obligation to make sure, "Jesus gets the credit." This is a huge problem in Jewish ministries. Humility is elusive. When we think we are approaching humility, just the awareness of our humility can lead to a lack of it. I find my only hope is not to try; but simply to seek conformity to His image through the Word.


 
Response from : George Diaz  

May 9, 2008 2:45 PM
 

Love is another word for Evangelism. If you had been given the opportunity to speak to 1,000 Twin Towers occupants on 09/10. Would you have used "Friendship Evangelism"? Knowing what we now know we must always be intentional in love. Understand we are His Ambassadors to reconcile the lost to Him, and always give "grace to the humble and the Law to the proud". Please pray your neighbor does not get killed if you are waiting for somebody else, or something else to share God with him.


 

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