Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 2 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Unconditional Love” (LISTEN HERE).
Don’t you wish there was a place that you could step into and know that even though people knew your failures and your past, you were still loved, cared for, and accepted? Do you wish there was a place where you knew that if something happened and you needed help, there would be a number of people to rally around you? Do you long for a place where you could be yourself, would not have to put on a front or façade and could show up as the real you?
I suppose heaven will be that – although we will all be perfect in Christ.
However, the Church is a place God has put together to be a place where unconditional love can be received and lived. Church is the place where we get to put unconditional love into practice.
(Note – I am not suggesting sin is not addressed and dealt with. I look forward in the future to discuss the interplay of unconditional love and fair justice.)
This series is not just to teach the theology of the value, but to help us form a culture that models this value. So what does that culture look like? Here’s some guidance from Colossians chapter 3
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Getting along in a Christian congregation is much like getting along in a family. There are times we say things we shouldn’t and hurt feelings. Sometimes we see something and we are offended by it. Sometimes we rile against feeling judged or made to look bad.
Creating a culture of unconditional love will be challenging, but the Scripture and love of Christ will help us. Here’s an example: In a previous church I had someone upset at me for over six months. I didn’t realize it at first but toward month 5-6 I could sense there was something off in the relationship. So a setting arose where I could ask, “Something seems to be off. Is something bothering you?” “Yes,” she replied. “You know back in _____ you preached a sermon and said ______. I believe you were talking directly to me and my family and was offended by it.”
Now we can deal with it. I was able to hear her and she me and the relationship was restored. However, for months a grievance festered. It is not loving to avoid conflict and instead carry a grievance. Sometimes the other person does not even know. Most often when talked about the situation resolves with love and forgiveness.
A culture of unconditional love seeks to lovingly resolve conflict or hurt quickly.
A culture of unconditional love sees people through the lens of Christ.
In a church, we can often expect perfection…from others. When we sense anything wrong or someone crosses us, we are tempted just to leave the church. I will be the first to admit, “I am not perfect.” Whenever I meet with prospective members (or current members), I tell them, “I will need your forgiveness and you will need mine.” We are a bunch of sinners enjoying the love of Christ and seeking to follow him more closely. We must apply the love we have received from Christ with each other…we all need it. Pride tells us we are better than others are and do not deserve to be hurt by others. Humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, go a long way to create a safe place in a church. Let us assume no one in the church is intentionally trying to sin against another person, but they do and they will. Humility is concerned more about the relationship than being right. Patience gives more than one chance to amend an issue…it might take time. Forgiveness is the ultimate glue to maintain a true (not superficial) peace.
People can “feel the love” or not feel the love. It starts again in our own hearts immersed in the love of Christ and then letting that love flow in our relationships with others.
The more we work at it, the more the culture of our church will reflect the unconditional love of Christ and be a place where each of us experiences the unconditional love of Christ.
Apply: What is one thing you ask God to help you do better or more to foster unconditional love at your church?
Prayer: Again we marvel at the love we have been shown by you Father. Empower us to show that love always, especially in your church. AMEN.
(DISCLAIMER: Comments in this devotion do not imply there is any current issue or situation to which I am speaking. I pray the comments empower godly living and unconditional love among us!)