I just put the question mark there to pique your interest. There’s not actually a question mark in the original quote. Also some random pictures just to break up the text.
Any time some new hot topic floats to the top of the internet, it’s like there’s a contest among internet theologians to out-love each other, as publicly as possible.
And I’m not saying that’s bad. God is love, and to be like God means to be loving. In fact, I just finished reading this book which explored this topic pretty thoroughly. It looks like a stuffy scholarly theology book, but actually it’s an exploration of how God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are who they are because they are love. God’s love is integral, extending, overflowing. You can’t out-love God. You can only try to imitate His love.
Jesus loves His Bride, the Church. And He tells the Church that the world is supposed to hate them, because the world hates Him. The words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are pretty clear there.
But the world we live in is a complicated, messy place. There are absolutes. Gravity, the sun rising in the East, and God’s definition of what qualifies as sin. But human beings are complicated, messy things. And so life gets complicated and messy, when we abandon the North Star of the absolutes God has created and try to do things our way.
Here’s one of those absolutes: Jesus loves his Bride, the Church. He loves the Church second only to God the Father, and it is Jesus’s love for God the Father that led Him to die for the Church. If we want to be imitators of Jesus, we should love His Church. It’s right up there with familial fidelity. In fact, it is familial fidelity. We’re children of God the Father and co-heirs with Christ. I’ll stop there before becoming even more repetitive.
Here’s another of those absolutes: We’re not supposed to love The World (1 John 2:15), and the world is supposed to hate us. Hate. Do you know what “hate” means? I mean, really? Have you thought about that? An easy extreme example would be the hundreds of Christians murdered – martyred – by IS in the last few years, for being Christians. But what does that mean for us over here? Does The World hate us? Or do we love The World so much that our “The World” doesn’t have a reason to?
You might be thinking, “Oh here we go, here comes the excuse for the hateful internet preachers and Bible thumpers and such and such.” No, that’s not what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is the, probably well-intentioned, reaction that says, “Look here, The World, I’m not with them. I’m not like them, those people who are mean and say things you don’t like to hear. I know you don’t like the Church, and frankly, I don’t like them all the time, either. But I do like you! Like me back, because you can! Really!” It’s a dangerously gray place to be.
And I think the indicator signal of veering out of the biblical lane of evangelistic love is when we take as a point of pride being loved more by The World than by the Church. When we’d rather have The World – not people seeking Jesus, not people with honest questions – love us and see us a safe enabler for The World, than hate us and think us fools. And we’re okay with openly distancing ourselves from the Bride of Christ, His Church.
Not because we listen to silly Jesus music or wear one-piece swimsuits or even because we only have sex with our husbands, once they are our husbands. I think that’s what I, and others of my generation, grew up thinking that concept meant. Being just a little out of step with what’s “cool.” But no. The World can shrug off most any lifestyle, yes, even ours. It’s not our culture that should be the reason The World hates and ridicules us. It rightfully should be our message and testimony.
This isn’t a cry to be inflammatory or divisive or provocative. The Gospel – that every human being is actively sinning against God and needs to repent and beg God’s forgiveness for their sin – is inflammatory and divisive and provocative enough. (That can’t really be preached “without words,” btw.)
This is just a brief (ha ha) reminder that, when we find ourselves saying “Thank God I’m not like that publican,” and the “publican” in mind is the Church, when we feel more hated and ridiculed by the Church than by The World, it might be time for a recalibration.
Apply as needed.
And be with The Church tomorrow.