The Difference Maker

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

A Retraction

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.

 

8 thoughts on “The Difference Maker

  1. Amen, I agree. The difference is how we love. Gods covenant with us is a eternal contract, and His embrace is limitless. Even, when we do X doesn’t necessarily mean Y will happen. We follow God in spite of the rewards or not. God is love and that is where I want to be. And that is where I know who I am.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate it. God’s love for us is so deep, but it is a willing love, not based on a legal requirement but on a father’s desire. That’s a God worth serving.

  2. I really enjoyed this read. I have felt the same. I am also a people pleaser for much the same reasons you point out 😊. When it all boils down God’s love for us is the concrete promise for us in Scripture. When we get it right, and when we mess up; through our lack of understanding and our feeble attempts to walk like Christ…GOD continues to love us. This is what He asks us to bestow on others. I like how you put it; “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.”
    Well said! God bless you 🙂

  3. Chip, I’m so thankful God’s unbreakable contract to love us is always in place and upheld. God is the ultimate Promise-Keeper. The only being who never breaks a promise or reneges on His Word. As far as the church and ministry, my husband taught a wonderful message yesterday about how the general nature of churches and Christians is to turn inward. We aren’t loving and serving outside our walls, yet, we’ve been commissioned to go…to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to share the gospel message and disciple. Jesus said the harvest is ready. But we also need to realize the harvest doesn’t wait. In a world where people are searching for answers, Christians are often hanging out in our own comfort zones. May we freely give love as God freely gives it to us!

    1. Yes! I want to be as free with my love as God is with his. That’s a tremendous challenge. He’s a loving father. I’m just a child, trying my best to learn not to stumble and make messes. Thanks so much for commenting, Karen 🙂

  4. This is right on, Chip. I serve in ministry not just to serve other people. I’m serving God because He loves me enough to send Jesus to die for me. God deserves my humble service pointing people to Him just because He is God, but also because of what He did for us. And I can always count on His love.

    I know many unbelievers find it hard to believe because our lives don’t look much different than theirs. That’s why it is so important to show and tell what God IS doing. Even in the waiting He is there to comfort us.

    1. You’re spot on, Nicole. Too many people focus on what God is against instead of on what God is for. As Christ followers, we should be marked by those things we embrace and emulate not by the things we avoid. Good thoughts!

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