Sociological tensions about politics, world events, and the appropriate response to a pandemic have tested the patience of all mankind. Never perhaps more than right now. What a time to be the church! Cultural pressures give rise to the opportunity for the church to live out what it means to belong to a transforming Savior who is meek and humble. Can the church be distinct from a world wracked by fear, anger, and judgment?
Christians have always been tested by the cultural pressures of their day. In the Roman Empire, for example, Christians were intensely persecuted; but also reminded (in Romans 12) to repay no one evil for evil, to leave room for God to make things right, and to overcome evil with good. Such a radical code of ethics is the way the Church demonstrates its otherness to the world around us. Loving God and Loving Neighbor is the simplest distillation of this code.
To the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9, 10.) How radical are these words in a time when we might not see eye-to-eye on a thing or two? Radical love in times of turmoil is so like Jesus, and so unlike the flow of our culture. This kind of love draws the unloved in; it heals the hurting. It shows the reality of our faith.
Embedded in this call to love is a guiding parameter. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Love doesn’t approve what God disapproves. Love doesn’t simply wink at what is evil. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is courageously stand against what is evil. It is possible to love, even sacrificially, while not being like-minded. Love and agreement are not the same thing. Jesus did not endorse everything about us when He went to the cross on our behalf.
Too often we run people through a filter: Do you agree with me about politics? Masks and vaccinations? Immigration? And whatever else! Then we choose to live (and love) according to that filter. But the love of God beating in the heart of the church is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Let’s outdo each other in loving this way! If we do, the world will know that we are followers of the One who taught us to love, and who gave His life to bring us (and them) to glory. I love you!