Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Hebrews 6:11 (NLT)
I was raised going to church every Sunday morning. While there have been occasional stretches of the journey during which I’ve opted to frequent “Bedsprings Baptist” or “Pillowcase Presbyterian,” I’m still a regular attender. Corporate worship is a waypoint in my weekly journey.
Along the way and through the years I’ve seen a lot of programming fads and gimmicks come and go. Some are slick affairs cooked up by the Christian marketing and publishing machine or a denomination’s corporate offices. Others are home grown initiatives trying to tap into our culture which endlessly buys into fads and passing fancies.
I remember sitting in a church service holding a bracelet I’d been given. I listened to the instructions regarding how I should respond when people asked me what my bracelet meant. I was to parlay the conversation into inviting them to church. The sub-text of the instructions told me that the goal was to get more butts in the chairs. I laughed to myself as I pictured Jesus looking sincerely at his disciples and saying: “I tell you the truth, they will know you are my followers if you all wear these shiny orange bracelets.”
Cynicism aside, I’m reminded again by today’s chapter that being a follower of Jesus is not about 40 Days of Purpose or not sweating small stuff or Each One Reach One or being Promise Keepers or What Would Jesus Do or National Come Back to Church Sunday or bright orange bracelets. Being a follower of Jesus is about love…. period.
Love is the start, the finish, and the means. Love is what God gives freely and abundantly, and love is what God requires in kind. Love is the calling card, the contract, and the reward.
Love God with all you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you. Love not just with words but with acts of kindness and financial gifts that require sacrificing your own self-centered desires. Love and forgive those who’ve wronged you, hurt you, double-crossed you, cheated you, slandered you, talked about you behind your back, stolen from you, spit in your face, dishonored your name, teased you, ignored you, misunderstood you, withheld from you, and raked you over the coals. Love the sick. Love the orphan. Love the slave. Love the prisoner. Love the widow. Love the leper. Love the one dying of AIDS. Love the poor. Love the starving. Love the unloveable. Love the liberal Democrat. Love the conservative Republican. Love children. Love the elderly. Love the sinner. Love the whore. Love the drunk and the addict. Love and honor your parents. Love and do not exasperate your children. Love fully. Love freely. Love with complete abandon. Love until it hurts, then squeeze out more.
When love is authentically and actively present, no other marketing or gimmick is required.