I grew up in a Christian home. I grew up in the church. My father's a pastor.
I go to a Christian school. I go to youth group. I'm involved in ministry groups.
I know the Bible stories like the back of my hand. I do my devotions. I pray.
And so on and so forth.
I don't remember the first time I heard about Jesus. I wish I did. It almost seems like I inherited the knowledge of his birth, his miracles, and his crucifixion along with my ability to walk and talk.
It saddens me to remember the days when hearing the words "Jesus died for your sins" from my Sunday School teacher seemed boring and repetitive. My thoughts in response were usually somewhere along the lines of, "Yada, yada, yada."
If you're like me, if you've been going to church since before you can remember, you'll get it.
But imagine never ever hearing the story of Jesus before. And imagine hearing it for the first time today. At an age of maturity. At an age when you could do something with the new knowledge.
And speaking of things that have been shoved down your throat since forever, what about love?
Love. It's something that we've been told since before our birth. We've seen it plastered on billboards and advertisements and magazines for as long as we can remember. "You'll love this new product." "I love that song." It's a word that our culture has taken, trampled on, and generalized so that it can be associated with anything and everything. For most people, it's a word that means almost nothing.
But what if the world took love seriously? Real love? God's love? Because while the world may show us its version of love, it really is nothing but a facade. Love can only exist through God. Love can only be expressed by His followers. Love is only produced by His Spirit. And anything else that claims to be love is a lie.
It's never really hit me before. The way the world has twisted and bent love out of shape has deceived so many. They seek love in many places, but they will never find it until they look to God for it. He is love, and he does not hide behind food, money, and relationships.
So if Christians are the only people who have real love sprouting from within them, then that's one of the identification factors separating us from the world.
John 13:35 - Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Christian love turns a blind eye toward others' faults and keeps no record of wrong. (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 4:2) Boy, that is probably the toughest one for me. When someone acts a certain way or does something I don't like, I have the urge to confront them. Even if it is wrong what they're doing, I need to be careful. Matthew 7:3 says: "And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?"
Yes, God has a standard of perfection, and we all fail to meet it on our own accord. Maybe a fellow believer stumbles in one area that you don't as much. But you know what, you stumble in another area. It doesn't make either of you superior. If you're like me, you want to correct that person's wrong right away. But what about your plank-filled eye? How will you be able to see straight if you have unfinished business with God? What about that sin in your life that you've left to fester and rot?
Ephesians 4:18-19 - And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."
I hate to say it, but the story of Jesus's sacrifice gets old. I get tired of it. It shouldn't, but over time its impact on my distracted mind becomes duller and duller. Of course I've had those nights where I pray to God with tears streaming down my cheeks as I thank him over and over for what he's done for me. And those are wonderful nights. But they are only some nights. On those nights I bow my head in humbleness and feel so unworthy. I am a lying, cheating, lazy, fickle-minded, unloving thief. I feel so unworthy of the gift of grace. I don't have to deserve it, and I don't have to earn it. If I did, I would be toast.
But maybe if I could learn to read the Gospels with a fresh mind, I could learn to understand the depth of God's Love for me. A Love that was personified in human flesh. A Love that sacrificed Himself so that I could live. A Love that wanted me for a daughter so badly, that it endured the cross. Maybe if I learned to pray for a deeper knowledge of this Love so amazing and so divine, I would have a better grasp of what God requires of us. Because the Love that Christ demonstrated by His death on the cross is the same Love that He demands to see in you and me. It's the same Love that we are meant to show to our friends, acquaintances, to strangers, and even to enemies.
They will know we are Christians by our love.... they will KNOW we are Christians by our love. They won't get ours confused with all the misshapen, poor imitations of the "love" we see in today's culture, because our love is the real deal. It's not a cheap rip-off; it's the original. The pure and perfect love that can only come from Christ. And His Love stands out SO brightly from the perverted world we live in, that how can people help but notice?
If we are living out God's Love within us, people will notice. They will ask.
We all need Love, and we're all looking for it. You might have found it, but the stranger beside you on the bus might not have.
I invite you to introduce them.