As a reminder, the point of the last post, this post, and the next three posts are all meant to answer one question: What can/should/must Christians do at this time? In other words, Pastor Mike and I are going to offer five different thoughts on how God’s Word calls us to respond to the pandemic and all its implications. Last time we looked at the fact that God calls his people to hope and not fear–especially when life is hard. This time we are going to consider God’s charge to us to light up the world with love. As we dive into this, let’s together thank God once again that he has promised to give us both the will and strength to obey.
Light Up the World with Love
A couple of weeks ago we had another post on loving our neighbors. There’s a key difference between that post and this one though. That post examined the essence of our love for others while this one examines on the purpose of our love for others. The last post focused on what it means to love our neighbors while this one focuses on what we’re trying to accomplish in loving our neighbors.
The world around is is struggling in a number of ways. Some have tasted the effect of the virus through sickness and death. Some are on the front lines of the fight against it as medical professionals, scientists, or government officials. Some are struggling due to a lost job or lost income. Some are feeling its effects by not being able to go to see and sit with and hug loved ones. Some are scared at what is still to come, some are frustrated at how this is being handled, and some are struggling from being isolated. I’m sure there are a number of other ways people are struggling as well.
The question is, what should we (Christians) do about it? What has God called us to? One answer–one of the most important answers–is to light up the world with the love of Jesus. Why do I say this, what do I mean by it, and how do we do it? I say it because the bible teaches it. By it I mean that we are to stand out to the world in our love. And we do it by seeking to bless others in such a way that puts our God-given desire to love more than live on display. Let’s briefly consider each of these points a bit further.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
The point of this passage is fairly straightforward: When Christians are acting Christianly we will stand out to the world around us–especially in times of trial. In our love we will be like salt put on meat and light shining in darkness. When we love well, as Christ loves us, it cannot go unnoticed. We will look different. People will see us and wonder what is going on. Our actions, our love, will not look like the rest of the world.
In all of this, the very reason for God’s charge to love like this is revealed: by doing so we give glory to our Father in heaven and light up the way to Him for others to follow. Loving others sacrificially, then, is not mainly about making sure they have food and clothing or shelter or companionship. It is about those things (possibly even at the cost of our own food and clothing and shelter and companionship), but it is not mainly about those things. It is mainly about demonstrating the power of the gospel and making clear the way of the gospel. Our sacrificial love is meant to prove the biblical claims of the reality and transforming power of God. When we act in ways that cannot be explained by anything other than the Holy Spirit living in us we show that there really is a God who loved the whole world in such a way that He sent His one and only Son to die for all who would receive him. When we act in ways that cannot be explained by anything other than new spiritual birth we put God’s glory and truthfulness on brilliant display.
And that leads us to the final section and final question. What does it look like to love like this; to love in a way that can’t be confused with any other kind of love? What does it look like on a practical level to love our neighbors in a way that truly stands out and cannot be explained outside of the truthfulness and power of the gospel?
Honestly, that’s a hard question to answer for several reasons. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to answer because loving like that is typically only possible when suffering is greater than it is right now. That’s not to make light of anything anyone is going through (some at Grace have lost family members to the disease), but it is to acknowledge that there isn’t a collective sense of despair or vulnerability or lack. That may yet come if the virus gets worse. And it may yet come if our economy crashes. If either or both of those things happen we will have no shortage of ways to express our gospel-powered love in ways that cannot be missed. In the mean time, here are a few things we could do:
- Pray that God would give you a love for neighbor that is greater than your love for comfort and even life itself.
- Ask God to make you ready to meet the needs of others even at the expense of your own needs. Take an inventory of your pantry. What do you have that a neighbor might need? Lighting up the world with love means we ration in order to share rather than hoard.
- Ask God to give you a willingness to get sick to care for the needs of the sick if necessary.
- Brainstorm ideas as a DG and practice sharing the gospel with one another.
- Find ways to connect with your church and neighbors now so that if there comes a time of greater suffering you already have a relationship. In this time of isolation consider connecting through Facebook or NextDoor app. Once the social distancing requirements are lifted consider inviting them over for a meal.