Selective Love and Fellowship
Robert Wurtz II
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
(Matthew 5:23–24 NKJV)
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 NKJV)
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20 NKJV)
I often find it deeply disturbing to find Christians busying themselves in a myriad of ways “doing a work for the Lord” while simultaneously ignoring the most important thing to God. It’s hard to get away from. Where can I go to escape the vexing grief? From the politicking pastors and ministers who believe that God wants them to move up the ranks — to the local churches who hold all kinds of events trying to grow their congregations — a great many Christians are laboring biblically (lawfully) and unbiblically (unlawfully) trying to please God with little consciousness of His heartbeat. Add to that the number of people who attend churches every week, raise their hands to a Holy God, and sing with the worship band (all the while living in a perpetual state of conflict with their fellow brothers and sisters), and one wonders what on earth is going on. Do they not see what they are doing? Is there anyone after God’s own heart these days? That is to say, is there a person whose heart beats in step with God’s?
A Timeless Message
I have chosen three passages from three New Testament time periods in order to illustrate how serious God is about His people loving one another. His message is an extension of His person. As John has told us, “He that does not love does not know God — for God is love.” Matthew 5:23-24 is from the Sermon on the Mount (one of the Lord’s Jesus’ first teachings). The second is from Paul’s writings to Corinth; whose saints having spent a year and a half with him, fell into gross carnality — treating each other in horrible ways. Most sobering is 1 John 4:20. This verse was written around 95 CE and is among the last writings in the New Testament. As if God was making sure that this fundamental truth was still at the forefront of the Christian mind; and for us… that it would be in the mind of Christians forever. Having inspired the words of Christ and Paul on the great topic of love He cots to the chase and declares as bluntly as our sensitive ears can handle; “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.”
I am confident that God is ten-times more concerned about how we love our fellow man than He is what we “do” for Him. In fact, He will not accept anything from us if we are feuding with people (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ). For anyone who has ever read the New Testament it is common knowledge. What good does it do to teach deep truths of the New Testament if the people are carnal (sarkikos), hate-filled, and living like unsaved men? Why raise our hands and pretend to love God when He sees merely a liar? At least, that’s the clear conclusion we arrive at in view of 1 John 4:20. What if a congregation was singing along telling God how much they love Him and a voice from heaven (bath kol) answered back, “liars! Do you not know that where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there?” (James 3:16 NKJV) We may never hear it audibly and God may never speak so direct to us; but if lovelessness were our reality Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 13:3; and 1 John 4:20 should shout from our consciences.
How are we to accept with good-will the proclamation of ministers who have a “word from the Lord” and there is rarely an attempt to deal with the hatred, strife, and division that openly exists among so many Christians. All too often “words” are given more as an unconscious (or conscious) attempt to stump for the next vote in the next election than to speak of the well defined concerns of God. Men are building their own kingdoms and do what pleases them. Many have completely lost touch with the principals of the kingdom of God. Moreover, the world cannot identify us either. Jesus left us with an unalterable truth soon before His crucifixion; “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34–35 KJV)
How can a church have compassion for souls if it can’t love it’s own present and past members? Is there any wonder the Lord, our Great High Priest threatened to remove the lamp stand at Ephesus? What good is a church that has lost it’s love? However, modern church-growth coaches encourage pastors to just “let them go.” It was Mark Driscoll who used the phrase “blessed subtraction.” He famously boasted against and laughed at the “pile of bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” (his church) who were “stiff-necked, stubborn and obstinate” rejectors of his “vision.” He went on to suggest that he hoped God’s grace would “make it a mountain by the time he was done” or people who either “got on the bus or got run over by the bus.” This compassion-less attitude is no reflection of God’s attitude, but Satan’s. Getting people to see that in an atmosphere of carnality is almost impossible. Why? The “run them over” approach makes sense to their carnal mind.
Go and Learn
What happens when Christians refuse to do what Jesus told the religious leaders, “Go learn what this means, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice’?” Answer: The carnal mind behaves with the spirit of the sons of Zebedee, “…. shall we call fire down from heaven?” Mercy and grace are handed out discriminately (to friends and family)… while sinners are never allowed to get up and get on with their lives. This is what happens when compassion for souls (real souls) is gone. Indeed, many have compassion on that nameless sinner who lives in a distant land and never harmed us. But what about the drug pusher who sold dope to your family member? What about the thief that broke into your house? What about the sexual predator who assaulted your friend or family member?
Undoubtedly, many Christians who lived in the first century had run-ins with Saul before he was Paul. What did they do? What about Stephen’s family or someone else who was persecuted and compelled to blaspheme by him? Paul was the chief of sinners — meaning, he had offended a lot of people. What did they do? Were they happy when he repented and turned to Christ? Or did they wait until after he was through giving his testimony to come up and say, “You know, I hear you talking and all, but I just can’t get past the way you treated me and my family! Some of them couldn’t even come today to hear you testify because they are so bitter!”
I suggest that if that were going on in Paul’s day the whole of Christianity would have been labeled a farce and came to nothing. Imagine that Jesus forgave the people who were crucifying Him; but His brethren, children of His Father, were vessels of hate and biterness? God forbid! The reason the story of Paul’s life works is that the saints forgave him and acknowledged the work that God performed in his heart. Otherwise, how could Paul declare, “For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (1 Timothy 1:16 NKJV)
When Christians refuse to love their own brothers and sisters in Christ, how can they love God? How can they love the unlovable? What hope is there for a lost and dying world under the imminent threat of a Devil’s hell have any hope? Not sinners who have no names in places no one has ever been. Real people. Real names. Real faces. What hope is there for the murderer, rapist, terrorist, or socialist when Christians have no love for them? In the twenty-first century hating sinners has been normalized. Beloved, this ought not so to be and is the greatest evidence of all that carnality is rife and that the love of many has waxed cold.
In these last days with mockers and scoffers by the score and carnal minded Christians threatening to overtake the visible church; let us heed the words of Jude who exhorted us, “Keep yourselves in the love of God (…)” (Jude 1:21 KJV) Just as the angels left their first estate we are at risk of leaving or forsaking the love of God. To “keep ourselves” implies effort. We have to do it. This is the great calling of the churches. If we don’t: we may as well lock the gates and close the doors.