We had a good discussion in our Sunday School class last Sunday. The topic was on the passage where Paul instructed the believers of The Way to not eat meat if it offended a brother (I Corinthians 8, I believe). So, naturally the discussion quickly turned to how do we offend others with our convictions, or lack of convictions. We talked about the various rules under which we used to live or perhaps still lived. Somehow we were missing the point of the passage, until the discussion turned to God's love and acceptance. I quoted a retired minister as saying that if he had to do it all over again, he would spend less time focusing on the negative, and more time on exhorting God's grace and mercy. Sometimes we as Christians are quick to judge and condemn, and fall way short on being loving and accepting...allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in His time.
This morning's devotional passage spoke to my heart about the crux of the matter...how we should live as Christians. I like how it is worded in the New Living Translation, from which I will quote Colossians 3:12-17:
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.
People outside the church will not be attracted to a rules oriented church...why would they want to attend a place like that? But when we as Christians, the Bride of Christ, the Church, will remember that we have been called to freedom, not to please ourselves, but to lovingly serve others (Galatians 5:13), we will make love our highest goal...not obeying the rules or enforcing the rules. Love will motivate us to treat each other with respect and kindness and mercy and grace...and Love will be what attracts those outside the church to want to know more about the Christ whom we are committed to.
It is possible to have a revival of love? Another comment I made in class is that if we do offend someone by our actions...perhaps it would be best to take that person out to lunch, or invite that person into our home, and be a friend. Talk about the issues that are offensive, and work through them. Everyone wants a friend...everyone wants acceptance...everyone longs for love...agape love...un-judging love. Can we offer that? Can we be Christ to those about us? I think we can. And I think we must, if we want to affect our world for Christ's sake.