The chief export of a local church should be love. Churches do many things, but the main thing we are to express to God, to one another, and to the world is supernatural love—because God is love. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Boil all Christian activity down to one word and it’s, simply, love.
Since our God is love, we are to be people who are known for love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(Jn. 13:34–35).
“God so loved the world that he gave us” Jesus (Jn. 3:16). And we love because he loved us first (1 Jn. 4:19). Love is the superstructure of the gospel. The cross of Christ is the supernova of God’s love for sinners. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
It’s Pretty Simple
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is—the greatest duty of God’s people, his reply: robust love for God and real love for others.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”(Mk. 12:30–31)
Love God. Love neighbor.
It’s really not that complicated. Our pesky flesh just gets in the way.
We can try and contort Jesus’ words, like a good Pharisee, with questions, “Well, who is my neighbor? How should I love my neighbor?” Jesus makes it pretty clear. Love your neighbor like you love yourself. We are to have counter-cultural love for the culture—nothing less than loving our neighbors like we love ourselves.
And we are to have gospel-formed love for our brothers and sisters. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). We are to do good to everyone, and especially those in the Church (Gal. 6:10).
This is a difficult way to live. But not impossible. This kind of love is not beyond the Kingdom of Christ. This is the Great Commandment, not the great impossibility. To walk in the Greatest Commandment requires great power, great ability—given from the Holy Spirit. What’s the first fruit of the Spirit again?
What Are We Exporting?
Our first priority is loving God. Always. Our chief task is not to put on a slick Sunday service, or to assimilate people into community groups, to serve the poor, to defend doctrine, to write books, to preach sermons—our first and greatest aim is love. (Then good works will follow.)
And if we aren’t careful, we can get caught up in the good things and forget the main, the best thing.
The church at Ephesus received a letter from Jesus, commending their sound doctrine—but rebuking their lack of love.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Rev. 2:4–5)
Every church should take an assessment of their ministry manifest and ask, “What are we exporting?” What is our church churning out? More love or more or more pride? More gospel or more Oprahisms and Osteenifications?
Solid doctrine is a good thing. So important. But churches with stellar doctrinal statements die every day. Lampstand status requires love.
The Ephesians didn’t lose their love for Jesus and others because of sexual immorality, drugs, Netflix, or Jim Beam—it was the good things, overtime, that wore them down. Like the slo-mo drag of the ocean, they lost their bearing. Caught in the motions of Christianity and they were no longer caught up with the risen Christ.
Stay The Course
Let’s not assume we aren’t there, or that we aren’t a weekend away from being there.
- Does our church really love Jesus, the person? Or are we bored with him?
- Does our church really love one another? Or are we a lame event?
- Does our church really love the lost? Or are we a city in a bunker, instead of a city on a hill?
This is too vital to not consider. Where are we today?
Let’s stay the course. Let’s do the two firsts that Jesus mentioned to the Ephesians.
The love we had first. The works we did at first.
We never move on from there. There’s no advanced Christianity. This is it. Love for God, love for neighbor. Word and deed. Hear and do.
We remember Jesus; we get reignited by his volcanic love, and then we act accordingly. The Way. The Truth. The Life.
We love because he first loved us.
J.A. Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, TX. He and Natalie have two kids, Ivy and Oliver. Jeff digs caffeinated drinks, books, and the Triune God. He blogs at www.jamedders.com and tweets from @mrmedders. Jeff’s first book, Gospel-Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, is set to release this November from Kregel.