When God listens to the world, He hears something different from what we hear. We submit to a Father who listens to the secret things in our hearts. He doesn’t listen to the fear-based emotions we emit into the world. He doesn’t listen to the junk we speak to bolster our confidence or boost our ego … He’s just so much better than that.
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). He listens differently than we do. He listens to the longings, the hunger, the cries in people’s hearts. He listens to the unspoken prayers of our hearts, without us even realizing they are prayers at all.
I wonder sometimes what on earth the church is listening to when it listens to the world. Seems we get easily fooled by the deception of the world while we examine what needs we’re going to meet for people, and why. We don’t listen to the desperation. We don’t hear the cries of wounded people who just want one single thing to go right in their lives just once. We talk almost glibly about going to hell without realizing many people are already living out a hellish life.
God Himself is a community. He said: “Let us make man in our image.” Our image means Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was saying, “Let’s make people in the fullness of all that we are together.”
His image at work within us should motivate us to live our lives being like the Father — wise, kind, known for His goodness and acceptance; like the Son — living in service to others, not coming to be served but to live in service, giving Himself up for the deep longings of other people’s hearts; and like the Holy Spirit — always giving Himself to teaching, counseling and friendship.
If we are going to claim the “Christian” title, we should be known for this type of behavior and motivation. The world will only know God through those of us who claim His name. You know the saying: Christians are the only Bible most people in the world will ever read.
The church is a group of people who practice love and grace on each other so we can offer love and grace to a world dying in separation from God. If we aren’t practicing love and grace to each other, within the walls and relationships in our churches, then we will never be able to draw people into God’s loving heart.
The world practices their opinions. The world practices sin with each other. Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Each of our callings from God leads us to practicing love and grace with each other first, and always, so we can draw the lost and desperate people of the world into the same love and grace we are sharing and practicing with each other.
Why would God ever bring one more soul into our buildings if we aren’t putting every effort forth to practice God’s love and grace with each other? What do we have to offer the world, that the world doesn’t already have? Our personal wants, needs, desires, opinions and expectations mean nothing to the desperate people in the world. A Father’s acceptance, a servant’s attitude and a Spirit’s help and friendship are what is missing in the world, because those are what are missing in the church toward each other.
The viability test from God for a church is how we love each other. Moreover, how much of our love is inclusive of everybody, or is it just exclusive to us? Are we double-minded about the way we give love? How many of us really love our enemies, and how many of us only love the people who agree with us?
What we are to do, as people who claim His name, is practice His presence because we know He is present with us.
For us to come to grips with the church’s community being a contribution to society, we need to understand that God and the gospel are full of reconciliation. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:13-16).
This passage helps us understand the context for us first, and then for the wider community. We are both rescued from darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son. All created things have the possibility of reconciliation with the Father. Every created thing has the potential to be touched by God. He is the head over all things and has the preeminent place. All fullness dwells in Him. Our resources are subject to Him because He is Lord over everything.
That includes our spiritual community and the neighborhoods in which we live. He has reconciled all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of Christ.
Marty Biggs is the minister of Shiloh Christian Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.