Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.Romans 12:9 (NLT)
I was at a conference not too long ago. It was a gathering of teachers and pastors. The topic: how to get the churches and the school united in our mission, the Great Commission. It was a good conference, with good materials, and good presentations. But one thing really stood out to me.
One of the conference leaders put an ad out on Craigslist asking for people from the greater Portland area to come and speak to the conference attendees, on behalf of their peer group, about their perceptions of Christians. There were three that responded in earnest. One was a secular Jew with a radio show in Portland. Another came representing the LGBTQ community. The third was a young woman who grew up in a religious home where she was beaten over the head (Figuratively speaking) with the Bible on a regular basis.
What they shared really impacted the entirety of the conference goers. But, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. They all stated generally the same thing: Christians are really good at talking about love, but horrible at actually demonstrating that love to their communities. Ouch!
I believe that Paul’s inspired verse for us today shows that the early church was wrestling with this same concept a couple of thousand years ago. We can’t just say we love others. We have to do it. There are enough fakers in the world. As Christians, it pains me to think that we’ve been lumped into that category.
So, what do we do? We follow what the Scriptures say. Get out and love people.
In a practical sense, it means leaving the safe confines of our church buildings and making friends with people where they are: in the alleyways, in our neighborhoods, in the part of town we never dare enter because things are “different” there. Get out and serve.
How? I will answer that by doing the same thing one of my seminary professors challenged me to do. Read through the book of Acts and look at how the early church did it. That is a great starting point, and a wonderful model to follow. Then, pray, do, love.