“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” – Romans 8:11.
There is a scene in God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness where a young woman knocks on the pastor’s door and says, “do you know why our generation (millennials) is leaving the church: because the whole world knows what the church is against, but it is getting harder and harder to know what it is for.”
Christians need to be known more for what we are for than what we are against. We need to be known for what we are for just like the Savior we seek to follow.
So what do you want to be known for? Good question, It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a church, a business, or a nonprofit. Because when an organization or church is able to close the gap between what they are known for and what they want to be known for, it results in good things.
Back in the days of the early church, the believers struggled with how to accept the sinner but not the sin. They went so far as to hold a conference to discuss the issue and whether Gentiles were required to follow Jewish practices to follow Jesus. It was the ruling of James, the brother of Christ and leader of the church, “that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). The early church decided they wanted to be known for bringing people into the family of God instead of putting up unnecessary barriers that would keep them out.
Is that what the church is all about today? Do we talk about the pastor’s insights, a great worship band, guest services, or condemnation of sin? There is nothing wrong with most of these things—but none of them are what we want to be known for. So what do we as the church body want to be known for and just as importantly what are we now known for? Are we seen as people of grace, love, and acceptance or are we seen as judgmental, arrogant, and intolerant?
Jesus had something to say on this matter. He said unequivocally, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Jesus told us that how we are known is so important that it will be the way people around us will know we are His followers. But notice Jesus does not say you should be known for your kindness or your generosity. Those things are indeed important and good, but Jesus tells us that what matters most is the love we have for one another. That is what we are to be known for as a church and as individuals.
Love for all people is the defining quality of Jesus. When Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by the way we have love for one another, He means that first and foremost our hearts must be transformed by the amazing grace of God’s love.
- What do you think are common perceptions about the church? Do you think the church is known more for what it’s against or what it’s for?
- Growing up, what was your experience with the church? Was it positive or negative?