We must understand our Christian identity in Christ before we will be actively involved in God’s work. Our basic problem is not a doing problem–our basic problem is a being problem. We are in danger of losing our identity. We must seek biblical answers to basic questions.
- Who are we?
- What is the church?
- What matters to the church? What is the purpose of the church?
- What things are most important to God?
- What things are most important to us?
Two kinds of things result from understanding who we are. There are some positive things that we resolve to make a part of our life; there are some negative things that we refuse. Until we understand who we are, we do not know how to do what we have been called to do. For example, apart from our identity as participants in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4), we do not understand biblical love. We are to love, but what does that mean? Love is not defined merely in human terms and expectations. Biblical love is different from worldly love. God created love; God is love and defines love (1 John 4:7). Jesus said there are two basics: love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:34-40). Loving God is Number One (#1). When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are focused on the ultimate treasure of life. The Christian life may be defined as a treasure hunt. Jesus said the kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great value (consider the parables of Matthew 13).
We must correctly identify the treasure. We must understand the treasure. The treasure is not heaven. The goal is not selfishly escaping eternal condemnation. God is the treasure. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and godliness (Col. 2:2).
As God treasures his people, his people treasure God. Loving our neighbors is Number Two (#2). Love for neighbor includes love for family, the community, and the world. When we love our neighbors as ourselves (and as God loves them), our purpose aligns with Jesus’ purpose. Jesus came seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). We are the continuation of the rescue mission. Love for people has this clear result: we attempt eternal rescue. We can affirm love only for those we seek to rescue. We may do a lot of things for people: we may provide physical necessities in times of difficulty or tragedy; we may provide activities that strengthen families; we may provide entertainment; we may provide education; we may provide medical care. All of these are good, but none of them prove that we love our neighbors or the world. Loving our neighbors–loving the world–implies that we are involved in an eternal rescue attempt.
I will be among the first to admit that loving people in this way is not easy. Loving people in this way requires that we put our lives, resources, and reputations on the line.
Loving people this way may be uncomfortable and may move us out of our comfort zone. When Jesus said that loving our neighbors as ourselves is the second great command, he challenges us to follow him in difficult but delightful ways. To follow Jesus in this way is worthy of our diligent prayer. Consider asking God for wisdom in the following prayer areas.
- How can I truly love my neighbors as God does?
- How can I truly love the world as God does?
- How can I love the unlovable? [What makes a person unlovable in our minds?]
- How can I love difficult people? [You may know these as EGR people–“extra grace required.”]
- How can I love people with whom I disagree?
- How can I love people I do not even like? [Loving is not the same as liking.]
- How can I love people by what I say?
- How can I love people by what I do?