Sunday, March 1, 2009

Defined by Love

A college friend once told me that he never trusted people who did not swear and did not drink. He figured that anyone who appeared to be too perfect in those areas must be hiding something big elsewhere in their lives.

His comment came to mind today as I listened to our pastor’s sermon about commitment to Christ. When we choose to become Christians, he said, we must give all that we are to God and His glory. Once we begin living like believers, some people will persecute us and some will be drawn to our faith. So far, so good. But then he began listing some signs that we are living like believers – we don’t curse, and we don’t watch the same movies as the rest of the world.

Where’s the love? I thought. Not cursing and not mindlessly consuming popular entertainment would set us Christians apart from everyone else. But what, exactly, about avoiding those “don’ts” will make others want to follow our Lord? My college friend probably noticed that I didn’t curse or drink, but did that make him want to be like me? Not at all! It just made him more suspicious of me and the faith he feared I might start peddling.

Christians are called to follow a more stringent moral code than the rest of the world, but following the negative commandments (avoiding the sins of commission) should not be what defines us. Rather, we need to demonstrate our faith in a positive way, actively loving and serving others: “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus said (John 13:35, NIV). We aren’t to be known by what we don’t do but by what we do.

The church service closed with some baptisms. One of the men being baptized stood up to tell his story, which went something like this: “I became a Christian when I was little but turned away from God as a teenager. I got married and did some awful things to my wife, was even ready to divorce her. But she showed me unconditional love like I’d never seen, and I realized it was time to give my life to God.”

This man did not turn to God because he noticed his wife never cursed and never went to the movies; no, it was because she loved him unconditionally, even when he hadn’t done much to earn her love. Now that is a great demonstration of commitment to Christ!

1 comment:

  1. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and. Love reigns supreme, but godly love produces holiness. One of my best friends in Virginia was a non-believer, and I truly loved her dearly. I was able to show love to her in countless ways, and repeatedly pointed her to the Truth despite her rejection of it. At the same time, when it came to going to the movies with her, I didn't compromise Biblical standards. That actually yielded great conversation.


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