By: Josh Morrison
This is the last in a series of four blog posts that our church’s elders and elder candidates are writing to remind us of the mission that we have been given by our Lord. They are intended to re-orient us to the things that God has called us to do as a church and as members of the body of Christ, spurring us on to celebrate, confront, clarify, and create.
Creating What is Missing
When we seek to create what is missing, the first question that arises is “What exactly is missing?” Genesis 3 makes it clear that we lost close proximity with God. Also, of note for us in the list of different consequences, he tells Eve that “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (v. 16). In commenting on this passage, the Reformation Study Bible notes that our harmony with our spouse is corrupted by sin and replaced with enforced submission. We see that the consequence of this hostility spills over into other relationships, notably Cain and Abel. In summary, the main thing that is now missing is closeness with God and closeness with each other.
With this in mind, we next have to ask: “What is our role in creating the closeness that is missing?”
Fortunately, the Bible provides the answer for us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-21). Loving God means obeying Him, something that we can never do perfectly, and loving our neighbor also provides a unique challenge to our sinful selves.
Fortunately, Jesus taught us how to love our neighbor. One of those teachings is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). As you recall, a man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A Jewish priest and a Levite walk by and leave him. Finally, a Samaritan passes and took care of the man, paid for extended boarding time at an inn, and promised to return to pay off any further debts. Through this parable, Jesus teaches us two main things: He shows us that we need his grace because of our inability to love perfectly, and He shows us the Christian way of life.
As Terry Johnson writes, “Jesus defines neighbor not by proximity, but by neighborliness, and requires its duties be fulfilled toward anyone who crosses one’s path” (The Parables of Jesus, 310). In other words, we don’t define our neighbors by who is near us or whom we hang out with the most. The question we have to ask ourselves as Christians is “Who am I neighbor to?” Because we have this responsibility of love to everyone we come into contact with, love is “concrete sacrificial acts requiring the expenditure of our time, energy, and treasure” (311).
Putting love into action will likely be different since people’s needs and circumstances are different. However, I think there are some general rules we can follow in our approach to loving others.
Pray earnestly. We are not alone in this endeavor. God sent Jesus so that we may be forgiven when we fail. He also sent us a helper in the Holy Spirit to guide us along our path. That bond is strengthened in prayer and time in God’s Word.
Put forth the effort. We may get taken advantage of along the way. But remember, our earthly toils will be hard, and our treasures are not on this earth
Be vulnerable. To open doors, often we have to share our hardships first. While this is countercultural, we have Christ’ example of humility in his life and death to guide us.
While loving others will be hard, it will be worth it. As John writes, God’s love is “perfected in us” and helps us “know that we abide in Him” (I John 4:12-13). So let us go forth in love.