Note: This article was written based on Thy Kingdom Come 3 Sermon on the All Souls Fellowship Nokia Podcast. It is irrelevant to the ongoing/current things happening in my life. The only relevance to me, is the application back to my own life...
Ask yourself these questions: What does loving God means to you? What do you define as loving God?
If I tried to visualise responses from a crowd, the usual definitions are:
- Worshipping God
- Serving God
- Reading Your Scriptures
- Preach your faith
- Trusting Him
- Obey His Commandments
- Study Theology
- Submit to leadership
- and much more!
You know what's the problem with this?
It's man's definition!
Don't believe me?
Go ahead - ask ANY Pharisee or Saducee, an you will get probably the SAME answer.
Ask ANY NON-Christians and you'll PROBABLY get a same answer.
Ask ANY cults, you'll also get a similar answer.
Ask ANY Atheists, and you'll get answers minus God, with philosophy added in.
If you ask most Christians regarding this list of definitions, them might be tempted themselves to define all these acts as proof of loving God. Hence, it results in a chicken and egg process.
Eg - do you love God first, and then serve? Or serve and then show that you love God? It's an endless loop that so many are trapped in their definitions.
The root of the problem?
Man and his definitions of 'loving God'.
(they may not have perfectly done it, but if you ask them, they would have agree that they have loved God to a certain extent)
Let's be honest. Let's not play the religion button or our definitions here.
Let's ask what the Bible says and test it according to the Spirit.
1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(Here John shows the result of loving God is loving your brother)
Matthew 22:37-39 (Jesus said:)
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.
(Jesus shows that loving your neighbour is very much like loving God)
Pharisees and Saducees can claim their love for God. But failed at loving their neighbour or their brother. Their claims are based on what they do - that defines their love for God.
But Jesus defined the Pharisees' neighbour as an enemy - the Samaritans!
[Jews consider Samaritans as their sworn enemy] Luke 10:37
A year back, I was in another Church. We had this fellow brother (which was very much alienated) who wasn't mentally stable and kept poor hygiene. (he rarely bathe and had a change of clothing only once in a few days). Often he would walk around with his fly down, and would hound & scare the girls in Church. Hence, people often sidelined him - drawing near only to feed him. Once, we were at this fellowship and we were planning to go out for some noodles outside the Church. And when I arrive, I saw this mentally unstable brother walking away down the street - away from the noodle shop. I asked those who are already there, and a leader told me that it wasn't appropriate for this brother to join us and that it would have been uncomfortable for everyone present. Other times, Christian brothers would make fun of him and mimic his antics. It was mocking him, but the only thing was that this brother didn't know it was a mockery - he was not intellectually capable of understanding what is happening.
That noodle outing incident disturbed me for weeks. I felt that I could have done something. I could have invited this brother to dine with me on a separate table. (besides, it isn't his choice to act this way, he was born like that).
Jesus considered loving your fellow man as great as loving God. Jesus said loving your neighbour is 'like it' (referring to the first commandment). Which is what made John wrote in 1 John 4 - that if you cannot love a person you can see, you cannot love a God you cannot see.
Not only to love those who love you - but also people who do not love you or are unable to love you. Even love those who are against you. Love those who persecute you. [That said - I have been made a mockery for a lot of things I've 'preached' on facebook and my blog]
Instead, of love - what we would find rampant in MANY Churches today is a 'Christian Standard' of conformity - that is, if you are not like us, you are not part of us. [Does it also surprise you such groupies existed even in Jesus' time? - the Pharisees vs Saducees?]
Think about it...
Going back to the list of 'Loving God'. We can say we have done all these things -by our own definition.
Some might even be tempted to shut out people from a "Deserving love" category by disqualifying those who do not have similar convictions as them.
Judging the tree by it's fruit has become - judge other trees by your own fruit.
Other good fruitful trees are condemned just because they do not have the same fruit of the person who judges. (you see, they judge by what they see - that is their own worth and what they themselves do).
Have we all made our definitions (and definition of fruits) into a religion?
Do we shut out people who don't attend the same Church, serve like ourselves, or do not possess the same Godly knowledge like ourselves? Do we kill & hate those who agree not to the same theological beliefs we hold? Some 'ex-communicate' those who do not possess 'sound doctrine' - the very doctrine ONLY their church/denomination possess.
Are we playing God by our own definitions of fruits and love and faith and sound doctrine?
Rather than rejoicing about their brother's fruit, they mock the abundance of it. But they forget one thing - it is God who grows the fruit - that is why it's called the FRUIT OF THE (HOLY) SPIRIT.
To them, if any Christian that comes along the way, and does not fit into their 'profile' they are rejected as believers - and given labels and stereotypes. (Is this God's way?)
We must begin to understand. Church is not a building. It's not something that happens within 4 walls. It's not a collection of theological beliefs. It's not a collection of ministries under one roof. It's not ministries that you serve and do things in. It's not the bible you read and the quiet time that you do.
If you make any of this 'Church', then you are merely making a set of intangible intellectual concept of definitions as an idol. In fact, challenge any of these intellectual concepts, and these people will burn you on the stake (verbally or for real) - whether you prove them right or wrong - doesn't matter.
As a consequence, labels and stereotypes are used without self-examination - myself, I have been called a BUM, wolf in sheep skin, prodigal son, hypocrite, fruitless tree, pharisees and more. Yet, are there anyone who can charge me of mocking anyone? Name callings?
Church is the body of Christ. The Bride of Christ. It does not define itself. It lets Christ defines her. It begins with Him and ends with Him. The Church submits herself to Christ.
It's all about the person of Jesus, and
NOTHINGabout our definition of things.
(but please do it by faith through grace, and be established in righteousness). In fact, if you look at the Gospels - ONLY THE PHARISEES loved the definition of things - their countless 'are you the messiah?', 'who is my neighbour?', 'on whose authority do you do these things?', 'what MUST I DO to have eternal life?', 'teacher, should we stone her?' and much much more!
In fact, tear away the definitions, and these are the people who are left naked. Their righteousness and faith is based on definitions, not the real Christ.
At the end of the day, ALL OF US can play the definition card. All of us can play Church. All of us can play theologian. All of us can play servants. All of us can play righteous. All of us can play mockers.
But we can only become Christlike through the renewing of the mind.
And true, selfless love can only begin once we know we are loved by God. Our love is defined by His own love for us - for we love because He first loved us.