The Jesus Love Revolution


For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
—2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV

Whenever I hear some smug sourpuss exclaim, “The word love isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Book of Acts,” I want to scream.

Why? Because the entire book is love! And not just Acts. Same goes for the other sixty-five books.

Sadly, the sourpuss understanding predominates in some of our churches. Too many Christians live as if love were the most foreign word in their vocabularies, and they’ll use any excuse not to say it, much less practice it.

This last year, if a lesson wrought in my life by the Holy Spirit has stuck more than any other, it’s this: Lead with love. Always.

And I’m not talking about tough love, because so-called tough love is the excuse of too many Christians to be tactless and self-righteous. I’m talking about this kind of love:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
—John 15:13 ESV

Look who laid His life down for us, the ones He calls friends. Look who wept bitterly at the tomb of His dear friend, Lazarus. Look who purchased for Himself a Bride, a perfect, perpetual lover, one He bought with His own blood!

We sell Jesus short (and ourselves along with Him) when we give such short shrift to love.

God so loved us that He sent Jesus, whom He loved in divine fellowship with the Holy Spirit, to show us how to love perfectly. By love, Jesus served us, and died on a cross, choosing to prove His love for us and for the Father and the Spirit, by offering up His life. And from that spilled blood rose His Bride, the Church, whose entire language and practice is steeped in love.

No one had seen anything like that Bride. Jerusalem was shaken by this band of people whose first act after receiving the loving gift of the Holy Spirit was to ensure by love that none among them lacked for any good thing. That the orphan and widow, the two lowest forms of life in that society, be loved and served because God loved them beyond what any human could understand. The orphan became the child of God and the widow a bride! Because of love!

That group of believers loved so intensely they thought nothing of their own lives save that they through faith love their Lord unto death, facing a cross of their own for reaching out to anyone who did not already know their Lover. And when they flagged, their leaders roused them with these truths of love:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
—Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
—1 John 3:1a ESV

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
—Philippians 4:1 ESV

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
—Colossians 3:12-14 ESV

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
—Philippians 1:9-10 ESV

You see, when Jesus Christ came, He brought a love revolution. The Jews were scandalized by this rabbi who loved tax collectors, whores, beggars, and even Roman scum who oppressed their nation. He loved the unlovable, and by that love forgave the unforgivable.

His birth was a sacrificial act of His own love.

His first battle with evil proved His unwavering love for the Father and for us, His mission.

His first miracle was an act of love for a couple in love.

His first public reading of the loving words of the Father attested to His love for those society deemed unlovable.

Ford Madox Brown--Jesus Washing Peter's Feet at the Last SupperHe delayed His love for a friend to show an even greater love that proved His love not only for His friend, but to His Father.

By His perfect love, His service to us was our model of love.

He only spoke the truth, and that because of His love.

Love empowered both His death and resurrection.

And when He spoke of the people He would love forever, He spoke of them as a Bride, the very image of love.

That Bride not only shocked the callous hearts of the Jews, people who had once understood the love of God (but who could not see when Love walked among them), she destroyed all pretense behind the false love shown by the pagans. For if the pagans thought they knew love through their religious sexual carnality and temple prostitution, the unblemished love Christ showed through His Bride shook their worlds. This was not a perverted love that loved only the young, strong, and beautiful, but also the old, weak, and ugly. The Church spread like wildfire through the Roman Empire, historians wrote, because the Christians loved people everyone else left to die. And an entire empire stood up and took notice.

Holiness didn’t make the rest of the world stare in amazement. No one was holier than the Pharisees. Doctrine didn’t make people wonder what this new sect was. No one knew their doctrine better than the Pharisees. When the last of the Pharisees exhaled for the final time, all their supposed holiness and doctrine amounted to not one whit of salvation wrought for the Kingdom of God.

Because they had no love.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
—1 John 4:8 ESV

In closing, the Bible says this:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
—Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell….
—Colossians 1:15-19 ESV

If we are to grow up in every way into Christ, then because He is Love, our entire reason for being is to love. For if the universe is held together in Christ, He holds it together in love, because that is what He is, and that is what we are to be as well.

The Peter passage that opens this post says it all. Everything we are about as Christians culminates in love. Love is the fulfillment of what it means to follow Christ. As the Lord of Love replied when asked which command is greatest:

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
–Mark 12:29-31 ESV

In everything, lead with love.


Monday-Morning Miscellany


Got about three hours sleep Saturday/Sunday night, so I hit the hay early last night and didn’t post as usual.

* I’ll be starting a loosely-connected series of posts on love in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

* Brad Hightower gets it. 21st Century Revolution is one of the most challenging blogs out there. Check out this post: “The Church or the Kingdom.”

* Mark Lauterbach over at GospelDrivenLife is rapidly becoming my favorite blogger. He dissects the implications for ministering to postmoderns in “The Litmus Test.”

* Confused by all this talk about the Emerging Church? In “Five Streams of the Emerging Church” Scot McKnight will clue you into the diversity of that movement and why blanket definitions (and condemnations) don’t work. On the same topic, a new blog to me, finitum non capax infinit, attempts a different taxonomy in the post “Leonard on Emerging Missional Trajectories.”

* Loads of links on house churches can be found in this post from ReligionLink: “House Churches Gain Ground.”

* Matthew 7:2—”For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Looks like the so-called discernment ministries are weighing each other in the scale and finding a lot of want. I won’t link to the debacle, but let’s just say it isn’t pretty. I find it ironic that the call for grace in this comes from the same folks who weren’t willing to give much grace to the ministries they castigated on their site. There’s a right way and a wrong way to address error in the Body of Christ, and you could see the trainwreck coming ten miles away in how these ministries dealt with error. If we judge people guilty by association, everyone winds up guilty in the end. For more, see my post “Who Watches the Watchers?

Advice for today: Lead with love in everything you do, while acknowledging your own penchant for missing the mark.

The Wrong Toy in Your Happy Meal


My son suffered the ultimate indignity last week—at least from the perspective of a six-year-old boy.

Because our Wednesdays are crazy, we take that day to eat out. I usually bring it home rather than pay for expensive containers of artificially colored and flavored, H2O-diluted high fructose corn syrup. We’ll drink water from our tap, thank you. (I’ve got a bottle of Karo handy if I need a late-night fix.)

The choices in my tiny ‘burg of 2,000 are actually pretty extensive since the Chinese place came to town, but I let my son choose this time. And we parents all know what that means: We’re goin’ to McDonalds.

My son has a McToy fetish bar none. He might play with said Happy Meal treasure for what amounts to nanoseconds, but he’s perpetually itching to see what the Golden Arches is dishing. Surprisingly, he still plays with a little Spyro the Dragon LCD-game he got at McDonalds two years ago, so sometimes Ronald gets it right.

But this time…nope, not this time.

I prolong the agony because I don’t want him rifling through dinner. So we took the plethora of hot bags home, and he pounced on the Happy Meal the second we walked through the door to see what bonanza lay inside.

Wait two seconds…

“Dad, we gotta go back!” he yelled, eyes rimmed with tears.

I fed him my practiced nonplussed expression.

He moaned louder. “But they gave me the girl toy!”

The girl toy. The dread fear of all sub-tween males. The %^$#* GIRL toy.

A man meets the woman of his dreams, marries her, and settles down to bliss. Soon, she’s pregnant. But an unusual illness turns out to be pancreatic cancer. She dies within two months, taking the baby with her.

A couple who’s struggled with infertility adopts an infant boy. Their delight turns to endless days of agony as the boy later manifests an incurable genetic disease so rare that no one tests for it. He’ll progressively become an invalid and die in his teen years. Meanwhile, their health insurance won’t cover the costly therapy needed to prolong his life by five or more years.

A young man starts a company with his best friend. They prosper. But the friend develops a gambling problem that knows no bottom. The man soon learns his friend has embezzled millions to cover his debts. Bankrupt, the company goes under and takes the young man and his family down with it.

Almost two decades ago, I sat on the front porch of a cabin at a Christian camp listening to a boy cry. I didn’t know him. He wasn’t one of the kids that called me “counselor.” But he was hurting, so I hunkered down next to him and listened.

I’d heard anecdotes of warring parents who dropped their kid at camp so they could spend that week shredding their marriage license, but this was the first one I’d encountered in the flesh. He’d received the “Mommy doesn’t love Daddy anymore” phone call just minutes before.

My parents stayed together, so I didn’t possess any firsthand broken home experience. I prayed silently (on the outside, while inside I cried out for wisdom) and listened as this poor kid bawled.

In the end, I told him that I couldn’t identify with what he was going through. I could tell him all sorts of things that might make him feel better for a minute, but I didn’t know what it was like to have parents split up. That was a horrible hurt no one should have to endure.

I charged him with this: One day, he’d be a camp counselor and he’d come across a boy whose parents said to hell with family, and he’d know exactly what to say because he’d experienced that torture, too.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that we need a Gospel that speaks to failure. Everywhere we turn today, we’re treated to a message that screams about seizing our best life now. But no one envisions a best life that includes suffering—now.

Among all the questions why, few of us take the time to ask if our pain is someone else’s gain. Even some stranger’s gain. Man of SorrowsWe consider the horror dumped on our laps and automatically assume that God’s forsaken us, or we’ve somehow forsaken Him. Yet we rarely wonder if the torment we’re enduring is meant to bless someone else.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to Asia, buried a wife and several children in Chinese soil, then went back to England a different man. Joel Osteen was recently voted the most important Evangelical in America. If Taylor were still alive today, and you had your choice between receiving counseling from either Osteen or him after a drunk driver plowed into your family’s car and killed your wife and kids, whom would you choose?

The Bible says this of Jesus:

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
—Isaiah 53:3 ESV

Jesus’ contemporaries didn’t think He had anything to give them, did they? We know better. We go to Him with our hurt precisely because He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And His people, who likewise know sorrow and grief, can be the flesh-and-blood shoulder we need to cry on as we cry out to the heavenly Man of Sorrows.

Your tragedy carries meaning for someone else. God never intends for us to squander pain. Be wise in knowing how to use yours to the benefit of another grieving soul.

My son? On his own he decided the best way to deal with the wrong toy in his Happy Meal was to give it to a girl who might appreciate it. He told me that this would ease the disappointment.

Out of the mouths of babes.