One of my favorite parts of ministry is having the opportunity to encourage another believer. I recently asked other bloggers in an online group if anyone had interest in guest posting at tracesoffaith.
Lisa Marie responded right away. She writes over at Authentic Truths.com. I quote from her blog page: "In Christ I've met the challenges of overcoming traumatic events surrounding abuse, loss and becoming a single mom, marriage, bipolar disorder and the manly life conflicts that hit us. I met Jesus when I was 24. The Lord found me, saved me, and has been leading me since! I strongly believe God uses our unique life stories to reveal His glory and to draw us closer to Him."
The story she shares with us today comes right out of her women's Bible study group. You know I love that! It continues the conversation we started here this week. Do you have friends who aren’t, for all intents and purposes, just like you?
To love like Jesus in a world in need.
The room was ablaze with debate. A debate I mistakenly started with one question,
"How do we love like Jesus in some of our current social dilemmas of today?"
This was in direct response to the study we were tackling. The question on the table:
"How is the new law to love as Jesus loved both hopeful and a challenge?"
Women were unknowingly getting louder, and at times, it felt like the defensive walls were being erected with every word. Rather than talking about the challenges of loving as Jesus loves, we somehow were discussing the sinner, the non-believer, and our “moral obligation” to be set apart. While I won’t get into some of what I heard that night (not all of it sat well), I will say that I was brought a little deeper and have enjoyed the conversation since. The conversation between God and myself.
How do we love like Jesus loves? Are the barriers of sin placed in our way? Are we inadvertently judging in the name of Jesus in place of loving in the name of Jesus? While this particular debate will continue for some time, probably forever, I believe we can find a common ground to pursue the goal of walking in God’s commandments.
Jesus replied: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
I have a genuine desire to share the message of Jesus Christ, to bring hope and comfort to many in need. My life experiences clearly point to a journey in salvation and I am on fire to now point people in the direction of Jesus Christ - all people. Including those we may not find in our innermost Christian circles. As a matter of fact, I would say I have a priority to reach those I won’t find in my inner most Christian circles. As far as I am aware, people in those circles already know Jesus!
I heard in that fiery debate that we are called to be set apart, that when it comes to fellowship, we are to join with other believers (all true by the way).
While I believe we are never to stray from our beliefs and convictions in living for God, our Father, and that our lives must have a direct connection to living by the moral and upright teachings of Jesus Christ, I can’t fathom a life where I don’t fellowship at a basic level with non believers. If we have a mission to go out into the world and share the good news, and our hearts tell us to share the Light, how do we do that without fellowship, without building a trust that the one delivering that message of love, is living in love, and the Light?
Please don’t confuse my words. This is about loving as Jesus loves, not debating scripture and those sinners within a moral and corrupt society, which is what it turned into the last time I brought it up. I think we all know what sin is, in fact, our beloved scripture says,
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Yes, indeed, that is me, and it is you. I additionally realize that as we walk closer to God, we will be convicted throughout the journey, and we will establish His will of moral living over our own lives. We will naturally want to share that insight and biblical perspective with others. I pray we understand we will be sharing with others in love, and also in confidence that we have one goal- to introduce a lost world to Jesus Christ.
After much prayer, and even seeking some pastoral guidance on the subject, I heard one thing,
"You just love and let me worry about the rest."
My pastor put it best,
"We have to be careful to not shoot the scriptural bullets of judgment, and we must remember that we, too, are sinners."
The common phrase we often hear, "Hate the sin, love the sinner," is true. However, can we fully love each other, believers or not, in the confines of our four walls and not engage those who need to hear the good news?
I believe the term "set apart" was misused last night. We should remain yoked to those who share our Christian beliefs. Without that accountability and to be yoked in any other capacity, we may unknowingly set ourselves up for failure. While the Lord does meet us at our point of failure (a great point from our Bible study!), I don’t think it is wise or biblical to place ourselves in these situations. Therefore, if we are referring to being "yoked," tied and bound to another during our salvation journey, we yoke up with our believing family.
Earlier I mentioned fellowship on a basic level. To take our conversations to the next level of sharing Jesus, we should be living in a way that always points to Jesus Christ. What does that look like? How can we grow in projecting Jesus love to the world- both believing and non-believing, in the volatile society we live in today? I learned through the debate that came from a simple question, that we are still torn between loving as Jesus himself loved, no matter the story of the fellow sinner. I may be of the minority in openly admitting, yes, confessing, that for me, there are certain people that I have not perfected the "love as Jesus loves" concept. Period. As I listened to a group of strong Christian women, I am convinced, I’m not alone.
Jesus once walked among us. He sat with those deemed less than desirable company. He stood with the sinners, had his feet washed by a sinner, ate with sinners. He ultimately died, not for the pure and the clean, but for the sinner. He loved. From the life He briefly shared with us, to the ultimate sacrifice, when He showed us the greatest love and died on a cross, and then rose for each and every one of us. How do we love like Jesus? We start by trusting Jesus. That trust will transform the way we see the people of the world- sinners, believers, black, white, big, small.
Just love, and He will take care of the rest!