Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

As followers of Jesus, should we show up at Chick-Fil-A today or Friday? A few thoughts… #chickfila

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Earlier this month, Dan Cathy made some comments on marriage and family in a Baptist Press interview that were quite possibly taken out of context by those who affirm same-sex marriage. Moreover, the Baptist Press probably mis-titled the interview in order to get more readership by stirring up controversy. Whether the article was titled poorly is a matter of interpretation I guess. Whether Cathy’s comments were intended to be a shot across the bow toward those in the gay and lesbian community can only be cleared up by Cathy himself. Nonetheless, what those who follow Jesus should now do about it is what I would suggest we need to seriously consider.

May I suggest three specific actions for all of us, both those who have adamantly spoken out from the gay and lesbian community as well as those who consider themselves religious conservatives, but especially all of us who profess to follow Jesus.

First, may we be gracious rather than gregarious. Webster defines “gregarious” as “tending to associate with others of one’s kind” in the sense of only socializing with the people of one’s own tribe or colony. Jesus was not gregarious. In fact, He took significant criticism for not being gregarious (read Matthew chapters 8 through 11). Unfortunately, human tendency is to be gregarious. Both of the opposing sides of the same-sex issue tend to associate only with their kind, and the result is typically a declarative imperative rather than a conversational viewpoint. Protests rather than relationships occur. A culture of grace is rarely displayed.

Next, may we look for opportunities to love others rather than lash out. Jesus said to love your enemies (Matthew 5). Now, I am not suggesting that the opposing sides of this issue are actual enemies. However, they are perceived as such and often act as such. For this reason, I am suggesting that those who say they follow Jesus, who say they love Him, should obey His commands (John 14:15). Jesus taught and modeled love for others. “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). Paul asserted that we are to put the interests of others above our own as Jesus did, not even holding tightly to what was His right or what He deserved in order to be a servant of all of us (Philippians 2:3-11).

The only people whom Jesus lashed out against were those whom He called hypocrites (Matthew 6). It was a word derived from the actor’s guild in Tiberius near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus referred to the religious leaders as actors who were putting on a religious show but were not actually relating with the God of their religion. In some cases they were exploiting God-worship for personal gain (John 2), and in other cases they were proudly displaying how pious they assumed themselves to be (Luke 18). In either case, they were not loving others as much as they loved themselves. May we not be hypocrites.

Finally, may we have ongoing presence rather than only making presentations. It seems that both sides of this issue have become well-versed in declaring their own stories, making their own presentations, even staging their own protests. Mike Huckabee declared on his TV show that today (Wednesday, August 1st) should be “Appreciate Chick-Fil-A Day.” This was in response to the uproar from the gay and lesbian community regarding Cathy’s comments. In essence, Huckabee called all those who stand against same-sex marriage to go out today to support the chicken chain, one that our family happens to frequent. At the same time, the gay and lesbian organization GLAAD has called for national protests today along with a “same-sex kiss day” to be held this Friday, August 3rd, at all Chick-Fil-A restaurants across the nation.

Presentations rather than presence.

Presence would actually mean relationships. I wonder how many of those who will go to Chick-Fil-A today to support the restaurant have a homosexual friend whom they have ever respectfully conversed with about their sexual preferences. I wonder how many who will represent GLAAD with public displays of same-sex affection have ever had public displays of friendship with a conservative evangelical.

To love someone, presence is required. Relating WITH someone is what is imperative. The presentation someone wants to make of which someone is trying to convince another cannot be held in higher value than that other person with an opposing view.

I would suggest that one of the most underestimated aspects of loving someone is simply valuing their story, actually wanting to hear what they have to say. We want to tell our stories rather than listen to someone else’s. We want to value our viewpoint rather than actually try to see from someone else’s. Jesus modeled the opposite for us when He partied with Matthew (Matthew 9), when He went to the house of Zaccheaus (Luke 19), and when He conversed with the woman at the well (John 4). His hope was to show them they were loved and let them respond to that love. It was not just to try to show them they were wrong. You can declare to someone they are wrong with a presentation, but you can only show someone you love them with presence.

THE BOTTOM LINE
I am going to go to Chick-Fil-A on Friday. That is, I am going to go there unless I am in the hospital meeting our newest little one who is due Saturday. If you follow Jesus, I would suggest that you go that day, also. Not to try to counter-protest, but rather to converse with the protestors. Possibly create a friendship. Offer a bottle of water. Maybe even have a meal together, even if it is at another restaurant near that Chick-Fil-A.

You can read CNN.com’s article that prompted my writing this post by clicking here.