Love-Fueled Propulsion

Lately I've been reading a book entitled Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those Who Help and How to Reverse it. While this book certainly isn't new on the scene, it is for me, and it comes a pretty pivotal point in my life and my way of thinking. Giving to the poor, helping those in need, offering emergency assistance - all of these things are essential and have been amply demonstrated to us by the example of Jesus Himself. Yet all to often churches and other religious groups have turned missions into nothing more than "religious tourism", pouring money into communities where there is no real outlet for sustainable change. In fact, if we were truly honest with ourselves, we often see missions as more for us than it is for those we are going to help.

All of that aside, the message of missions got me to thinking about what the world truly needs to see and hear from those who are followers of Jesus. There are several options vying for that top category:
  • Hard nosed theological teaching, making sure that the rest of the world knows that we are right and they are wrong
  • Stripped down services and sermons that welcome everyone into the fold with a "don't ask, don't tell" agenda that seeks to offend no one
  • Easily accessible ministries and services that allow the needy to come to us so that we can give you God-inspired hand outs
  • Flashy and catchy events that will bring in the big numbers so that we can show the rest of the Christian world what God is doing through our church and ministry
  • Or, we could do what Jesus did and love people
If you can't tell, I'm pretty partial to that last one. Yeah, I know, guys who write religious books and blogs about love often forget that love paid a price on the cross for real sin, and in doing so they ignore or even deny the reality of an eternal separation from God. So this isn't me telling you to just love everybody and the world will be a better place. I mean, the world would be a better place if we all could just get along, but for the sake of the discussion at hand, the love that I am talking about is the kind that propels us, not obligates us.

You see, if you are a follower of Jesus then you already know that throughout the New Testament He commanded you to love others, both your neighbor and your enemy. What happens to so many is that, when they see this command from Jesus, they go into obligation mode as if loving others is something that they have to do in order to prove to Jesus that they really have been saved by His grace. Surely there is nothing sweeter than being given a cup of cold water by someone claiming to be a Christian who wouldn't be caught dead being seen with you beyond the facade of ministry that they are hiding behind.

Love, the kind that binds our hearts to Jesus and overwhelms us with its beauty and audacity, is not a love that makes us feel obligated. No, it's a love that compels us. I mean, how in the world can we not love others as Christ loves us when we grasp even just an inkling of how outrageous that love is?

This means that we are propelled by love in all that we do. We are excited about helping the poor and take delight in pulling alongside those who are desperate in need. It means that we are stoked about reaching out to the lost and broken, joining them in their journey to find hope and peace in Jesus. Being propelled by love means that we GET to love others, not that we have to. 

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