By Tom Atema
God’s love in us… is an expression that must flow through us.
Recently I read a fascinating study. A university studied a number of people who were in love. They performed an MRI of their brain and what they found was the places that light up bright and were functioning at top capacity were three specific areas that control our attachment, joy, and risk. They also did the same MRI for those NOT in love and found the places that light up and were functioning at top capacity were the three areas of duty, safety, and comfort.
As I read this, my mind as a Christ-follower went to what we refer to as The Great Commission. It made me pause and do a self-assessment. What is my true motive for doing what I am doing; do I love Jesus or not?
According to this study our love for Jesus can be measured. What I think we need to ask ourselves is – am I doing what I am doing out of joy, am I taking risks and am I attached to what I am doing? Or am I doing this out of duty, being in a comfortable place and playing it safe?
Think about it. When we as Christians are acting out of duty, playing it safe, and are staying comfortable, what naturally flows from this position is that we begin to pre-judge people.
Another project by Pew Research shows that 76% of the Evangelical community want nothing to do with Muslims and 42% of that number are under the age of 60! In a separate study by The University of California – Berkley, it was found that if we just change 1% of the culture the entire culture can change.
This makes me scratch my head. We evangelical Christians now have the greatest opportunity to reach Muslims with the Gospel since the 2nd century and we only have to change 1% to change the Middle East. Why are so many “Christians” resisting getting on board?
Before Jesus showed up it was normal to love God and not your neighbor or your wife. But Jesus gave a new commandment – love one another as He loved us! (John 13:34)
The people around Jesus said “who is our neighbor?” Jesus makes it crystal clear – it’s no longer a Jew, it’s anyone anywhere with a need you can meet. The book of Mark quotes Jesus, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this; Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these” Mark 12:30 & 31
It’s all about having a conversation with someone with no agenda, except to love them as Christ loves them. Loving them enough to talk with them and share life with them. It’s having a compassionate heart to unconditionally help someone in need. It’s not going in with your bible open with all the proper verses memorized to convince them they are wrong and in sin. Jesus never did that, so why should we? It’s drawing them into a conversation with a lifestyle that’s so loving and caring they begin to care about what you care about.
Loving your neighbor doesn’t mean we need to control their conduct. There is a big difference between the two. Loving people means caring for them just because they are created in the image of God, just like you. As soon as we have an agenda it’s no longer love.
I think we pass over the “love others as I have loved you” verse because we do not want to take risks and we are fearful of the unknown. However, what I have learned is that freedom is always found on the other side of fear. So, I get the fear factor in meeting needs with love.
However, as far as I can remember, God has never met me in the middle of my fear but He always meets me in the middle of my faithfulness.
Fear will always cripple us and knock us off course. If we continue to act out of fear then we cannot complain that nothing is changing. I think this might be one reason we spend more time and money on evangelism than on discipleship. When we need to sit down with our neighbor and disciple them, there is a fear factor of rejection and we just do not want to go there.
Jesus came to change how people interacted one with another. As Christ followers we have more opportunity today than ever to interact with the people around us. Everything Jesus did was based on love, everything we do should also be based on love. Jesus valued people so much that He loved. So, the question is, do we really value people as Jesus values people?
It’s our responsibility in these turbulent days as Christ followers, to set the national conversation not so much with words but with our actions; our love. Followers of Jesus Christ down through the creation of time have set the standard and we must continue to do so.
As Christ followers we are going to have to make a choice; are we going to spend our time connecting with people or correcting people? We can’t add value and connect with them if we do not love them first.