I used to think, as a follower of Christ, that the world was Just, that God had plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and God was working good into my life because I was called to his purposes (Romans 8:28). There’s a peace that comes with that kind of certainty. If I do this, God will do that. It’s a divine contract, eternal and unbreakable.
As I head toward middle-age, I have started seeing life differently. Life in this world isn’t Just. There is no certainty of God’s blessing in a fallen world. When I do X there’s no guarantee of Y. The only promises that are unbreakable are that life will have ups and downs and then we will all die. In the words of the author of Ecclesiastes, it’s all in vain.
What About Christ?
But as a Christ-follower, that bothers me tremendously. All the ministry initiatives, the outreaches, and the time and money I’ve spent “doing Church” don’t seem to have made any difference in the world. The Church is still losing ground- more people are leaving it than coming to it. Is following Christ really just a hamster wheel, running forever and making no progress?
As I despair about the seeming futility of church ministry, I have been trying to go back to the basics. Why do I follow Christ? How does that affect my everyday life? Does it affect others? How?
The Inescapable Truth
The inescapable truth of following Christ is that life as his follower often doesn’t look much different than the life of a non-follower. In the words of Jesus, rain falls and the sun rises on the good people and the bad people alike (Matthew 5:45). What should distinguish me from someone who doesn’t follow Christ is my love for everyone.
Love is the game changer.
Love is the weight that tips the scales.
Love is the mark of the changed life.
It’s easy to love people who love us. I’m a people-pleaser, going along to get along since the beginning. It comes from being bullied and excluded as a child. When people like me, it’s easy to show them kindness. When people aren’t rude or arrogant, it’s easy to encourage them.
And the Hard Cases?
But what about the people who don’t like me, those who are condescending and proud? Well, they don’t deserve my love, so I’ll set a healthy boundary. I’ll justify my unloving attitude toward them by quoting Paul, “don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers” or Jesus “be as wise as serpents”. Then I’ll go on about my business of treating them the way I think they deserve to be treated.
Friends, this shouldn’t be. The world isn’t Just, because it’s fallen. A Just world would have no place for Love because Love is unjust. Love sees what can’t be seen with the eyes, peering down into the souls of others and glimpsing the image of the God who made them. It mines through the dangerous depths and rocky crags of hardened hearts to pull out the gold. Love isn’t earned. It’s given freely.Love isn’t earned. It’s given freely. Click To Tweet
So I was wrong earlier. There is one more unbreakable promise from God: he loves me. I can search the Scriptures and read every commentary from various traditions. I can do studies on the promises of God, that when I do X he’ll do Y. Sometimes God comes through, and the promise stands. Sometimes God is silent, and we wait for Justice.
Many of those aren’t promises for us, for all time. But God’s love, that’s eternal and unbreakable. It’s not a contract. It’s an embrace.God's love isn't a contract. It's an embrace. Click To Tweet
I don’t begrudge others focusing on the promises of God. God is good, regardless of my limited perspective on his activity in my life. I have simply learned that God loves me when I don’t deserve it, he blesses me when I don’t ask for it, and he forgives me when I haven’t earned it. That’s not Justice. It’s Love, and when I give it away to others, that’s what makes all the difference in the world.