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Hold Them in Love

(July 4, 2017) 10:46 AM Shot this pic in Dallas.

You’ll notice that “community” is used instead of “church.” This is the high calling of the body of Christ, including your local church and mine: to live in community. (Some day I will stop using the word “church” to translate the Greek ekklesia. If people around me aren’t doing it, that’s no excuse for me not to try. An ekklesia is a group of people who have something in common as opposed to an ochlos, a “crowd.”) This illustrates something important for me. I am being lured back to the simple ways of Jesus. And I am finding the process so convicting. The humility of Christ doesn’t grant us permission on this Fourth to call out our fellow Christians for feeling patriotic or to harp about a revolution in 1776 that was probably at odds with Paul’s teaching about submission to civil authority in Romans 13. Oh my. This approach, it seems to me, is based largely on the habit of being negative — seeing only (or mostly) what’s wrong in our culture and even in our church culture. In Matthew 25, Jesus condemned those on His left not because of something they did but because of something they failed to do right. This is how simple the Gospel is. “Whatever you do for the least of these, My brothers and sisters, you do for Me.” In other words, Jesus is describing (as in the church sign above) a community, and a community that cares. If, on my website, I’m constantly calling out gays or liberals or Trump-supporters or Trump-haters, how can I ever expect to befriend them with a view to sharing with them the love of Christ? I’ve already alienated them. As my seminary evangelism professor once told me, “You’ve got to play the music, Dave, if you want to say the words.” We take our marching orders from King Jesus, and last I checked I don’t think He was asking us to defend homeschooling or eldership or a political brand. Believe what you want, but be careful of becoming apologists for your views. That’s the theme, by the way, of my little book Christian Archy. One example I used was pedagogy. Practice homeschooling if that’s your personal conviction (it was ours), but remember that other Spirit-filled Christians might view education differently, and you can both hold your convictions in love because you are in community, not pontificating from a keyboard. Following Jesus never comes with a permission slip to get up on our high horses. In their book The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay write, “People in America are not ignorant of Christianity…. They’ve seen so much of pop Christian culture that they have a programmed response to us: Ignore, ignore, ignore” (p. 125). Representing a kingdom alternative to the world does not require a boo-hooing of everything else in our culture.
Well, Dave, isn’t it time you stopped preaching to the choir and got real? How are you going to change? After all, aren’t you the greatest of sinners? (Answer: Yes.)
If I see a serviceperson today, I will thank him or him for their service without stopping to think (not even for a nanosecond) about politics. I will watch tonight’s fireworks and marvel at this Chinese invention. I will listen to Sousa and tap my feet. I will take a long walk. (I don’t need to be in “church” to experience God.) I will look for Him in a grandchild’s smile or in the reflection in a pond or in the scent of a gardenia or in feeding my puppy a treat or in taking a bubble bath. I won’t feel guilty that I live in a free nation. Instead, I will seek to leverage that privilege for Jesus. For starters, I will ask God to help me to make the most of every opportunity that lies before me both on the internet and at home, school, work, and every area of my life. I will ask Him to knock down a few of my defensive walls. Like Jabez, I will ask Him for broader horizons to share my faith. I will think long and hard about people I know who are not yet heaven-bound and will add them to my salvation prayer list and intercede daily for them. I will ask God to soften their hearts to the love and saving power of Jesus and to convict them of their sins. More importantly, I will ask God to make my life a light that points them toward heaven.
Friends, the amazing thing is that it’s within our power how we will view this national holiday. With a snub we can create enmity; with charity we can work miracles, even the miracle of leading someone to the Savior. A put-down, even if it seems well-deserved,  might make us feel good for a while, but loving encouragement can heal a multitude of wounds. And boy could our nation use some healing right about now.
So ….

  • Have your convictions.
  • Hold them in love.
  • Act civilly toward all.
  • Be Jesus to everyone you meet.

It’s a tall order, but it’s not one-sided. “Remember, I am with you, day after day after day.” The Lord has big-time plans for Americans who, on the one hand, value their liberty, but who, on the other hand, leverage it for the Gospel.
Happy Fourth!
(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)
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