I recently finished rereading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Though I will not review the book in this post, I highly recommend that you read it. In short it is a call to recognize God’s immense love for us and to respond with a crazy, radical love of Him. Each time I’ve read this book it has a profound effect on me and this time was no different. I was struck by the foundational nature of this love relationship to the Christian faith.
It’s a common enough theme. We sing songs about God’s love for us and ours for Him. We talk about loving Jesus. It’s certainly a familiar concept. What strikes me, though, is just how central this relationship is and should be to all that we do. Perhaps the best place to see this is in the great commandment. You may remember the story. Jesus was approached in Matthew 22 with a question meant to ensnare Him – “what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He continues by saying, “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” He didn’t bicker about laws and traditions. He didn’t enable their religious system at all. When Jesus chose to summarize all that God expects from His people, He chose love. This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees of the day who had long since elevated the religion above love for God.
Much of the American, conservative, evangelical church has gone the way of the Pharisee and substituted religious activity for a love relationship with God. A great many professing Christians believe that faithful participation in the church system is the sum of what it means to be a Christian. I’ve heard church leaders say that people who don’t attend evening church services don’t love God as much as those who do. I’ve heard people say that God is only pleased with certain styles of worship and music, and then only if done at a certain time on a particular day in a particular place. I’ve also heard that you don’t believe in prayer if you don’t attend a formal weekly prayer meeting. On and on the list of ridiculous regulations could go, but you get the point. The religious activities have been elevated to the place that God ought to have in our lives.
Though some of these activities may have value, we must remember that Jesus condemned the church at Ephesus for leaving their first love despite the fact that they were working, doing all the right things, and both morally and doctrinally discerning (Rev 2:1-7). Our purpose is to love Him passionately. All other activities or programs are simply a means by which we should be seeking to do this. We can never fall into the trap of equating participation in church activities with love. They could be acts of love, but they could just as easily be self-centered attempts to appear or become spiritual without regard for Christ and His heavenly program.
We must remember why we do what we do. The proper motivation for any spiritual activity is a passionate love of Christ and all that we do should flow from that love. If this is no longer our priority, we must take Jesus’ warning to heart and listen to His council. He says to remember the love you once had, repent of your sinful heart and then return to proper loving actions (Rev 2:5). This was good council then and it is good council now. Let us return, as individuals and as churches, to a passionate love of our wonderful Savior.