Like other elements of society, the Church follows trends, even fads. They might show themselves in worship styles or catch phrases (how many times have I heard a preacher “unpack” a passage of Scripture? ) Those are certainly harmless. Less so, however, are the shifting points of emphasis which seem to change with the winds of preference.
One such shift has been toward creating “seeker friendly” (also a catch phrase) churches, which, in my opinion, seem to miss the point of believers assembling themselves together weekly. Then too, of late there’s been a noticeable increase in the attention churches are giving to service. No longer do we want to sit on the sidelines, but we are admonished to “be the hands and feet of Jesus” in our community.
And we don’t stop with admonishing individuals. We are organizing programs and partnering with para-church organizations to feed children, care for orphans, tutor those struggling with literacy, provide clothes for the needy, beds for the homeless, medical and dental care for the poor.
In short, we’ve left the comfortable pews behind and have made a determined effort to charge out into the highways and byways to reach the unreached through our good deeds.
“About time,” some say. The church in America has been trying for far too long to create a safe, wholesome place where our needs are met and our sensibilities aren’t offended. We’re overdue for a little boat rocking. In fact, the whole thing needs to be turned upside down.
There’s a lot of truth in that position, which, I’m discovering, is the place where a lot of error starts. Just as in every other area, we must look at Scripture and take our lead from God, not from what sounds good, and certainly not from what is currently trendy in the church.
So what does God think about caring for the poor and orphaned and widows? He’s all for it!
Problem solved? Not so fast.
There’s something He’s even more all for. He’s all for us loving Him. That’s the first commandment, the greatest one, according to Jesus. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Then and only then are we to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems to me we are in the process of flipping the order of the two commands, as if doing for others is more important than loving God.
Over and over the people of Israel were admonished to love God or fear Him, then to obey and serve.
Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 10:12).
So here’s the critical point. It is in loving God that we will genuinely be concerned for serving others. It won’t be a passing fancy or a program that we’ll swap out for another one later on down the road.
No, if we love God with our whole being, we will want what He wants, go where He sends, do what He says. Loving Him seems like the only sure way we will end up loving our neighbor self-sacrificially. After all, these are the people the One we love passionately came to save. Why wouldn’t we in turn love them too? Isn’t that the way it works when two people love each other—they take on each other’s interests and passions. They pay attention to what they had never cared about before.
So, sure, it’s time the church in America became less self-satisfied and self-centered. It’s time we stopped loving ourselves more than we love God. But the answer isn’t to try to make ourselves love other people more than we love ourselves. That might be an admirable goal, but it has the commands Jesus enumerated upside down. Unless we do the first, we won’t be doing the second either—not the way we could or should. We’ll simply be trending.
Reposted from Nov. 2011