Loving God and Neighbor
For several years, our church vision/mission statement has been Loving God and Neighbor in Worship, Word, and Life Groups. It continues to be a beautifully simple yet profoundly Biblical call to fulfill the Greatest Commandment through the triune disciplines of gathering together Sunday’s and on special occasions for genuine worship; reading the Word of God together using the Life Journal, learning how to HEAR God speak to us; and joining as family in a small group dynamic that encourages genuine Holy Spirit transformation.
LOVE is the overshadowing connection in this Vision God has given us, and we read this week from Luke’s Gospel a profound example of love flowing from and to both God and neighbor… Four unnamed heroes of the faith joined together to bring their neighbor, a paraplegic who obviously couldn’t carry himself to Jesus, and who couldn’t be carried to Jesus by an individual—it took a team… Jesus noted THEIR faith, and declared the paraplegic forgiven from sin and healed bodily…
Did you notice the LOVE of the four—for God the Son, whom they believed in with real and deep faith—the kind of loving faith that pull back the roof to access the Presence?!
Did you notice the LOVE for Neighbor displayed by this mighty team? They looked like the REAL Church as they joined together to do what they could not do individually, and carried their Neighbor not only to the house but up on top of it…!
Did you notice the LOVE of God poured out on both the four and on their crippled neighbor as Jesus declared forgiveness and healing, while recognizing and heralding the faith of the four-member Life Group?
And don’t miss the fact that is was equally LOVING to confront the religious spirit within the Pharisees who were offended by Jesus’ loving words and actions? Maybe, just maybe, some of those Pharisees repented and were delivered from their religious bondage because Jesus chose to lovingly confront them in their gossipy whispering rather than excuse or ignore them!
God is calling this Church to LOVE our God and our Neighbors with equal faith and determination and passion and courage! To love God, we must love each other enough to become a cohesive team—to trust each other enough to carry together the most broken and vulnerable into the Presence…!
To love Neighbor, we must do what Jesus did, and “move into the Neighborhood” (John 1:14). We need to go to and become part of those around us—rather than expect them to come to us. After all, “paraplegics” must be carried to the Presence! To this end, we are moving into a neighborhood here in town through an apartment—not as an outreach, but rather as an inreach. We are also starting “pop-up” Saturday worship experiences built around easy fellowship and testimony sharing—going as a team to love on our neighbors (who, like us and the paraplegic, do not realize the depth of the paralysis until they are forgiven and healed by Jesus!).
More will be birthed in us as the Spirit leads us through this year. But make no mistake: Our Heavenly Father is calling us to LOVE Him and our neighbors far more deeply than we have before. This LOVE must be in and for each other within the Church—until we are truly a team! This LOVE must GO to neighbors, not just wait for them to crawl our way. This LOVE must be so focused on Jesus and His presence that we will rip off any barrier to get right into His Living Room….!
Welcome to 2017, THE YEAR OF LOVE!