Here is what I know: the church of God is vast indeed.
It’s easy to forget that. In our countries, where we are, in our cities, in the places where we are with the people who are mostly like us, it’s easy to forget that. When we do forget that, “the church of God” becomes a sort of mirror, a bubble: it is our small Christian community. It is the people that we know and love and talk to regularly.
But the church of God is not that. We do it a disservice by reducing it to that.
The church of God is enormous. It encompasses all those believers who have gone before, those mentioned in the Word and those not, the generations that came before us – not just from our country, but from countries we’ve never visited and may never see. It encompasses us in the now, worldwide, and it is full of people who are like and unlike us, from all our different cultures and ways of life, and those who will come after we are gone.
Here is another thing I know: this is a trying time.
People are hurting. People are afraid and uncertain. And I don’t just mean in America (although it is very true in America right now) and I don’t just mean about the election (though it has opened deep wounds). I mean right now, in this cultural moment, in 2016: things are rough. Worldwide, the amount of pain, frustration, conflict, confusion, and uncertainty seems almost overwhelming. 2016 has been a strange and disconcerting year for many.
But I do think in times of wounding Christians can rise up. That Christians must rise up in great love and to give great love. And now, more than ever, I think we must fulfill the duty we were given: one which cannot be accomplished by governments or by law, one which can only be fulfilled by those sanctified in the blood of Christ, one which must be fulfilled at a deep and personal level by every believer bearing the name.
That duty? The two greatest commandments, according to Christ: to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
In this fractured moment in history, God is waiting, willing, wanting to use His church. But His church must let itself be used. And to do that we must abandon our self-interest, our self-preservation, our own desires, and treat the very least among us with the reverence we would accord to the highest. We must reach out and embrace those who have caused us pain, those we can’t understand, with forgiveness and compassion and grace.
It is a hard thing.
But it is a necessary thing.
May I encourage you today, and every day, to spend some time getting back to those basics? It’s been helpful to me of late to ask myself two questions to evaluate the condition of my day. The first: how have I loved God today? And that question concerns my inner life and my spiritual life – the nature of my obedience, my willingness to hear Him, my desire to spend time with Him and learn from His word. The second: how have I loved and served my neighbor, my enemy, and “the least of these”? That question concerns my outward work: not what I do for other believers, necessarily, but for those who are lost, suffering, helpless, powerless, those I don’t understand, or even those I find difficult to love?
And that is the simplicity of the Gospel: those two questions. Because our God loved us enough to suffer and die for us, we who call on his name have now become the delighted and privileged servants of others who love Him and also love Him by loving others in His name. It’s a difficult calling, but a rich one. And in a trying time full of wounds, division, uncertainty, and confusion, I am certain it is the only way to cut through the noise and the hurt and mistrust.
Moreover, the more I look at the people who visit my blog day to day – the more I see evidence of visitors from Ghana, from Germany, from China, from Mexico, from Canada, from Australia, from all over everywhere – the more I become overwhelmed by the sheer possibility. God is so much bigger than my city, than my country. The sheer potential of His great church rising up in love and ministry gives me chills when I think of it. Can you imagine what might await if we start tending to the business of the kingdom of God rather than getting caught up in every material moment and in our own circumstances and interests?
When the world is hurting and full of conflict, that means there is also room for healing, for love, and for great grace. For miracles. And for wonders still.
The God who has called us is faithful, and He will do it. But we must allow Him to use us as He will.