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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love Wins

Love wins. This simple phrase has taken over our nation and my social media platforms, our conversations and 24-hour news headlines. It's pulsing through our minds like a Times-Square ticker tape.

Love wins.

Maybe you've posted something like this on your Instagram within the last few days:




Or maybe you've posted something like this:




Or maybe you haven't posted anything at all (like me, until today); instead, you've simply observed.

There has been plenty to observe.

The things I've heard and the things I've read have really blown my mind. People's ability to graciously and compassionately disagree is largely extinct. Hatred is flowing from both sides of the debate, and each camp views the other as intolerant and ignorant.

I kind of want to curl up in fetal position in a dark room and take a month-long nap until the noise quiets.

Then I pause, and I breathe. I get quiet. I come before the God of creation, the God who made me and you and every person in every camp, the God who knows our sinfulness and our lifestyles and our fears and our dreams. I sit before Him and remember His graciousness and compassion. I remember His abundance of tenderness, and His ever-flowing well of forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The chaos subsides. The truth shines clearly.

First and foremost, we are all sinners in need of saving. All. Of. Us. The second those of us who profess to follow Christ start to hold ourselves in higher esteem than others, we will find ourselves in severe danger of being just like the Pharisees that Jesus chastised in Scripture:
"None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored. You Pharisees are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won't go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in." - Matthew 23:10-14
If those who walk with God would walk in humility, with a true understanding of our own depravity, our approach to other broken people would drastically change. Instead of elevating ourselves and looking down on the masses, seeing broken people as projects and sinners to convert and cleanse, we might instead first stand among and beside them, commiserating with them. We might vulnerably share our own brokenness and sinfulness, and stand first as one people, all of us broken and in need of a Savior.

We could lead by example instead of chastising. We could lead by loving people the way Jesus loves us: sacrificially and wholly.

Secondly, God's people are called to stand as a light of truth in this dark and hazy world. Standing for what we believe by holding firm to God's Word and to a belief that His truth is unchanging in an ever-changing world is something that should overflow from a place of humility and love. If we stand for the truth as a Pharisee might, willing to point out the sins of everyone around us all whilst ignoring the giant plank of wood in our own eye (Matt. 7:3), we might as well be nothing more than a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1)," making a bunch of noise that ultimately drives people away, both from us and from their Heavenly Father.

Truth spoken in love, however, has a much different effect. It breeds compassion and respect, and ultimately growth in the kingdom of God. Ephesians 4:13 says:
"Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the Head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love."
The Church has an incredible opportunity right now. We can walk humbly and speak truth lovingly and respectfully to a world that looks darker every day, realizing that ultimately it's God's job to change hearts and lives and lifestyles and so on, and that our job is to represent Him honestly and consistently, ultimately lending credence to the fact He is who He says He is, and that His ways and truths are worth living for. We can carry the gospel of Jesus Christ into our world by living the gospel in our world.

Or. 

We can walk arrogantly. We can be loud and brash and angry. We can stir up dissension and try to change the world ourselves, in our own way. We can fight with both fists raised instead of turning the other cheek that way that Jesus would (Matt. 5:39).

If you choose this path, just do me one favor - don't do it in the name of Jesus. Don't make Him look bad. Don't drag Him through the proverbial mud, taking those who desire to represent Christ biblically and wholeheartedly along with Him.

Presenting truth to a world in which black and white have melted into a drab gray cannot be forgotten. It's part of the very fabric of the gospel. However, it must be presented in humility and love. 

This requires us to engage with people. To build friendships with people who live and believe differently than we do. To step outside of our comfort zones and into a brave new world of loving people who aren't like us.

My pastor said it so well in an email he wrote this week on the subject of the Church's response to marriage equality: 
"It comes down to relational evangelism.  Build those relationships!  May the love of Christ come through as we are “salt and light” for the gospel."
This means we must step down off of the pedestals many of us have placed ourselves on in order to stand side by side, sinner by sinner, next to our friends in other camps. And we must realized that God loves every person in every camp, and that Christ died for us all. If that doesn't bring us to our knees, humbled, I am not sure what will.

In the end, Love wins.