I occasionally come across people who tell me their non-practicing Christians. Such a comment amuses me as it is an oxymoron. It’s like saying that my pet dog is a non-practicing human, or my chickens are non-practicing emus. It makes no sense. But we live in a world that demands I accept this self-definition. I am told I am intolerant if I assert that such a label is nonsensical, and belligerent if I suggest that being a Christian implies an active lived out relationship with Jesus and His church. After all, there are many paths to heaven, of which Jesus may just be one, and to suggest otherwise is met with more intolerance than the intolerance I apparently display by suggesting such an absurd notion as Jesus only.
But we Christians aren’t exactly helping our cause. The way we treat one another suggests that if that is what being a Christian is, its better to be a non-practicing one. We get worked up because something doesn’t happen the way we think it should in the time we think it should have in the form we think acceptable. We get upset if the things we think the church should do isn’t done, even if those things never really worked in the first place. We act with belligerence and intolerance toward one another and fail regularly to display the love God demands His people to live in action within the church.
John’s epistle doesn’t hold back on these matters. Christians cannot say they love God and hate their brother/sister. Individuals can’t say they love God but want nothing to do with God’s people. John calls them liars (1 Jn 4:20). Faith in Jesus, the Son of God, makes us children of God. The Spirit speaks this truth into our lives, creating a faith that conquers the world through the command to love. It is faith in Jesus that saves, and it is this same faith that obeys His commandments out of gratitude and love. Jesus is the only one way to God, and a relationship with Jesus insists on a relationship with His church. The truth of Jesus’ baptism, and death, and the witness of the Spirit continually affirms this.
As Christians we need to heed the words of Jesus and take the log from our own lives before calling others to take the speck from theirs. The way we act toward each other needs to be driven by the freedom of the commandments. Only as we love one another in the same unconditional way Jesus loves us can we hope to conquer a hostile world whose intolerance towards us frequently reflects our intolerance toward them. The world was not saved by the law but by the unconditional grace of Jesus. Everything we do as church must do the same. Only when we take life together as a community, as being together as God’s people, as the most important priority in our lives, can we hope to offer unconditional love which conquers intolerance and belligerence.
As you go home today ask yourself, in what ways have your actions demonstrated the love that faith in Jesus demands toward your brothers and sisters? In what ways do you make your relationship with Jesus a priority in your life, and how can you express this as a member of His church. The world has already been conquered for you. Nothing in this world, or in worlds unseen, can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. There is nothing you need to do for your salvation, or for those you know, except insist that your church be a loved filled, love expressed, loved enacting community. How we live and act as a community is a witness none can ignore.