If you're like me you've got in some fierce debates before. If you're a Christian, then the chances of you getting into a dumb debate over theology are even higher. They can be silly things like "Was the Earth created in 6 days or 6 billion years?" or "Well, I think this is what God really asks of us." In each instance, the words and the way I use the Bible weren’t coming from a place of love. I had a tendency to use Christ as a personal agenda to back me up or get what I wanted. Whether that was to look intelligent, appear to know what I was talking about, or feel I was a better person, none of it came from a place of love.
For years I've resented the Church. A lot of the reason being issues from the past, but when you're the guy who screams on stage for a living and covered in tattoos, you can get a lot of looks. I always felt everyone's eyes on me and judging my appearance. I try to live authentically, so when everyone appeared happy, I felt they were being fake with me each time I stepped into the church. That's changed and I'm part of a church now, but those feelings led to one of those argumentative debates when I was at a church in Seattle. The
argument stemmed when one of them took a very strong stance about predestination (the belief that God chooses you to be saved and you have no choice in the matter) and the "elect" (the belief that Christ only died for those He planned to save, not the rest of the world).
So what happened?
Man... we went at it. Two dogs in a fight and neither backing down. Looking back, the whole situation was pathetic and embarrassing. But it's a great example of me throwing my beliefs—and the Bible—around to prove others wrong. In effect, I was just as judgmental as the people I felt judged me. There was no love in our conversation, and I realized that in that moment, I was nothing more than a "noisy gong." Nothing in my words or actions showed Christ's love or His mercy for others. I was thrashing another human being's morals, values, and lifestyle to prove I was better. Where's the love in that?
If we share the Gospel or talk about Scripture with others and it isn’t rooted in love, then what good is it?
When I think of my relationship with God, the first thing that comes to mind is that He loves me. God genuinely loves me and wants to be part of my life. He desires and enjoys me spending time with Him and vice versa. I also dwell on His grace and mercy. He's given me forgiveness I don't deserve and covers my poor decisions in grace. He's done so much to ease my soul, mind, and body from suffering as well. These qualities and attributes of God are imparted into my life based off one thing—His love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul has a conversation with the Corinthian church to explain just how important love is. The church had been using their spiritual gifts in a destructive manner that left people alienated. Sound familiar? Instead, he encouraged them to use their gifts in love and for the building up of one another, not as noisy gongs.
Many people can do the “christian” thing. We can talk to people about Scripture, we can share the Good News, and we can tithe to our church or donate to a cause. We can even read our Bibles and proclaim to others how much “we love Jesus.” But if there isn't love that flows out of those things, then what are we doing? And why are we doing it?
When we read the Bible, if we aren't doing it out of a place of love, then why are we reading it? Is it so we can discover some life hack to feel better? If we tell someone how much Jesus has done in our lives without the root of our message or testimony coming from a place of love, then why are we sharing it? For our own benefit? If we share the Gospel or talk about Scripture with others and it isn’t rooted in love, then what good is it?
Far too often, those in Christianity are known for our hypocrisy, or the way we use Scripture to hurt, shame, and guilt others. But Paul reminds us to build up others in love and Jesus reminds us we'll be known for our love. When we condemn others with our words and actions, Christ's sacrifice on the cross and what He's accomplished to free us from the burden of condemnation becomes inept.
We must first love. Then out of the Spirit's outflowing through our spiritual gifts God will give us the tools to show His unconditional love to others.
The world needs to know about the loving, gracious, merciful, redeeming, forgiving, and living God. The depth of His love shows through His willingness to have His own son die for us while we were still enemies with God (Romans 5:8). But how is that love shown and communicated? Through you, through me, and through those who have an intimate relationship with God in Christ.
The call is clear. We must become loving, supportive, encouraging, generous, uplifting, sensitive to others' hurt and pain, and non-judgmental. Let us challenge ourselves to make love more actionable than condemnation—and please—don’t do what I did and use the Bible to demean or belittle someone. Let's ditch the noisy gong. Let's instead be known for our love in that Christ first loved us.
1. Where do you need to change or repent in areas where you've used your faith in destructive manners?
2. Who can you encourage today or build up in love?
This is an excerpt from Jake's devotional Mountains