The body of Christ is often known more for its conflicts than its cooperation. At least, that seems to be the perception of the world, or maybe it’s just an excuse? (Sometimes I do wonder.) At any rate, I’ve been a pastor for nearly 16 years, a Christian since I was a kid, and what people are seeing in Joplin, Missouri has actually been the norm in my experience. For example, from our small, rural community -which is a good 3 hour drive from the tornado devastation- a team of 66 workers made up largely from the Christian Church, the Baptist Church, and the local hospital staff, spent a full day cleaning tornado debris with Samaritan’s Purse. Different churches with differences over a few doctrines, working together because of Christ. It happens more than you think, and there is probably less hesitation than you imagine. In fact, churches often jump at a chance to work together on such projects. I think there is something about enjoying unity and working together where names, titles, and buildings play no part whatsoever.
It’s just the way it’s supposed to be. The way it WILL be eventually.
Like the Bible says in I Corinthians 13:2… “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing… there are more pressing matters than being able to figure out all the mysteries, or having all the knowledge, or accomplishing great feats of faith. With God, none of that matters if there isn’t real, lived-out, love.
It’s no accident that when telling 3 parables having to do with the end of the world and a coming judgment, Jesus final story was about love. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes the nations being divided before Him on judgment day, and the reason for the division was that one side had given water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, and had met the needs of those who were destitute and devastated. The other group had not.
Does this mean all you have to do in order to be saved is do some good deeds? I might as well as the question. But the answer is deeper than that. Salvation is a sideline issue here. The point was that this sort of love which is lived out in the life of a follower of Jesus, is what defines a Christian. Obviously, it should come as no surprise that the people who believe in and follow, the Savior who gave up His life for the world, would themselves give up their lives for the world, too. Followers, follow the leader.
It’s a litmus test. Is someone really, actually, truly a Christian? The first evidence you look for is love. The Bible says in I John 3:10: This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Sometimes people ask, “how do I get saved?” But I wish more would just as sincerely ask, “how do I follow Jesus?” When they do, one could point in the direction of Joplin, Missouri these days. Or the inner-city. Or a ranch for troubled teens. Or a shelter for abused women. Or one of those millions of believers who do little things every day to show the love of Christ, giving some of their time and money and energy away out of sheer… love.
As I write this, I’m tired. It’s Friday, and church camp is over. This particular church camp week was called “Base Camp,” a camp for high school and junior high kids. It’s called Base Camp because we don’t stay there the whole time (and that’s a lesson in and of itself). This year, we spent a couple of days in Joplin helping 3 families put their homes and lives back together. Afterwards we came back to camp and spent a couple more days with some beautiful people who have a few disabilities, helping them have a church camp of their own.
It wasn’t always easy or fun -for sure. But it was awesome.
And maybe, just maybe, there are some teenagers today who understand. Hopefully they get it. Following Jesus is about giving your life away.