In his book Vanishing Grace, Philip Yancey tells the story of Henri Nouwen and how his prayers changed after working in an AIDS clinic in San Francisco. Nouwen said that as he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior he began to realize that there was a thirst for love that had never been quenched for many of these patients. He said from then on he prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.” p. 28
What a change would take place in our world if we Christians began to love, serve and pray like Henri Nouwen. What if we just stopped our judgmental attitudes, our self-centered views of our culture and instead loved people just like Jesus did.
Saturday I attended a service that my friend Bob Cheatley and Ruth were conducting at the local Anglican hall on how to know Jesus as a friend. People from a half-dozen church families came together to worship and grow closer to Jesus through times of reflection, prayer, music, quiet time and even a little journaling. And what we took away from the day together was an understanding that we as Christians have much more in common with each other than we do regarding the things that separate us. And to really love Jesus is to love our community and each other.
Yancey hits the nail on the head when he writes, “I’m convinced that human beings instinctively seek two things. We long for meaning, a sense that our life somehow matters to the world around us. And we long for community, a sense of being loved.” Vanishing Grace p. 32
Most of us want our lives to matter. We long for our lives to be motivational and constructive in a spiritual sense. We also seek community and that feeling of love that belonging cultivates. Kids join gangs and adults join societies and service clubs for a feeling of community. Everyone wants to belong but our culture is ever isolating us. We spend more and more time in front of screens and less and less time talking, sharing, eating together and storytelling.
Ruth and I lived in a small country village at one time and the center of our social life was my uncle’s country store. On Saturday night the store would be alive with people catching up on the local news, telling stories, laughing and gossiping. We spent many a Saturday evening standing around listening to relatives and neighbors entertain us and inform us about scores of subjects. It is a time in my life that I look back on with the fondest of memories because of the community and love that radiated from that old store.
If Christianity is to have any real impact on our culture we must become community once again. And we must become a community that loves and doesn’t waste its time judging and finger pointing. I know how bad I am and most other people know how bad they are. They don’t need me or any other well-meaning Christian to come pointing out their sins, but instead they need to know there is a God in Heaven who loves them and gave His son for them. When people learn that Jesus is their friend who loves them unconditionally then they will change their habits and lifestyles.
In a magazine published by Christianity Today they listed four common complaints about Christians. 1. You don’t listen to me. 2. You judge me. 3. Your faith confuses me. 4. You talk about what is wrong instead of making it right. (Quoted in Vanishing Grace p. 34)
Take a moment to think about your witness. How does it come off to people who are non-Christian? Isn’t it time we showed more love and less condemnation to our community?
Anne Rice, the well known American author who was famous for her conversion to Christianity only a few short years later wrote, “I quit being a Christian….I remain committed Christ…..but not to being a Christian or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” (Quoted in Vanishing Grace p. 37)
What a shame that she was constantly confronted with such a non-Christian stance by so many of her fellow believers. I’ve said it before and continue to say it on this blog that I want my life to matter when it comes to serving Jesus. Love attracts and changes the lives of people so let me ask us all a simple question, “why don’t we love more?”
Yes, the world is thirsty for love, community, truth, friendship and compassion. The story of the modern North American church is simply, what will we offer them? Will they find community, friendship and love in our hearts or condemnation, rejection and judgment?
The Christian community is us and if we wish to win the lost to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us then we should open our hearts to the Spirit’s grace and compassion for the lost.
God is love. How do we come off?
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…