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The Rate of Love

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Did you know if you want to be successful as a church you must be willing and able to love? And… real love takes us beyond ourselves!

…it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

Did you know if you want to be successful as a church you must be willing and able to love? And… real love takes us beyond ourselves!

What love does cost is our will; the first thing that we must do for true love is sacrifice our strong-willed, self-centered selves and focus on the person and work of Christ, and what He has done for us. Once we realize that life is about sacrifice and costs as much as it is about the experience of love and relationships, then we will have a better understanding of life and comprehend how we must live. The Bible tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs; Christ keeps no record of our wrongs. When we become a Christian, saved by His Grace, our sinful nature is covered and hidden. God is not up there writing it all down; if we have repented, we're clean. So, what happens when we go around in church and society with a little notebook, writing down every single record of others wrongdoing and harboring, escalating, and milking them for all they're worth? They become the bullets of destruction we carefully craft and hone for our targets of opportunity. But, those opportunities become mixed up and confused as we skew the targets from glorifying God and expanding His kingdom, preferring instead to satisfy our lust for power and revenge. How does this affect our love relationship with Christ? Is this how we are to live? Is this the right way to use ammunition? What about focusing collective Christian behavior in a unified force so that we can be more effective to the people around us?

Churches are crippled because members go around harboring a list of wrongs. The lists turn into resentment that grows and grows until the church is filled with people harboring resentment and all attacking one another as if they were soldiers of war with their guns of truth loaded with bullets, each one a record of the wrong they may have received.

When I was with the church growth-consulting firm, I heard many stories of how churches were brought down, and I have seen some of these horror stories firsthand. This is why one of the major characteristics of a dying church is that its members are left so hurt (and most of them justifiably so) that they are unable to function effectively. These pains blind the members from the church's true mission, and why they are a church in the first place. There are numerous stories of churches going to secular court because the fighting had gotten so out of hand that their denomination threw up its hands, giving up in disgust. If you traced these fights, you would find stupid, insignificant origins that mushroomed out of control like a malignant cancer that starts as a small microbe, then spreads and corrupts the whole body. This time, however, it is the body of Christ.

What God Expects

The book of Hebrews tells us to " make every effort to live in peace with all man and to be Holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to because trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15

God calls us to pursue peace with all people-despite the temptations we may face or the evil that is done to us. As Christians, it is our duty to live in peace with everyone, including other Christians as well as non-Christians. Our human nature tends to focus on us with that selfish and abrasive nature. But, this is not the path upon which the Christian experience should take us. We are to exemplify the peace that passes all understanding, the focus that needs to be communicated constantly to each Christian, by each Christian; and then to the rest of the world. The peace and harmony in our fellowship depends on us, the believers, and the witness that we represent is our responsibility because the non-Christian depends on us for their "source code."

Source code is the basic program language and files that run various computer programs. The source code for the non-Christian is the example of Christians, and our source code is the Scripture; what flows out of our source code is to be Holy for God. Our goal and pursuit of the Christian life is not putting our confidence in feelings and expectations, but substituting confidence in ourselves for confidence in who Christ is. He is pure; He guides and desires us to be pure also. Christ is the Christian's source code and confidence for all of life's problems and adventures. The goal of our salvation is to grow in Christ and in holiness, to be like Him and to mirror Him to the world. Then, our confidence is perceived by who we are in Christ, and this becomes our primary witness to one another and the world.

"No bitter root" means a person who spreads deception and disloyalty to God and His covenant with His people. Our root is designed to bear fruit. When we harbor bitterness, we will either become corrupt and unable to bear fruit, or we will bear very slowly, not up to our full potential. The author of Hebrews gives us stern warnings that we are not to be defiled by these corruptions. When the root of bitterness grows in a body of believers, it spreads like a disease and starts to corrupt one another's roots. Then the disease spreads into the community outside the church, and there goes our witness and call. So the warning comes so that we are not the cause for the trouble that bitterness stirs up; rather, we are to sustain our faith by holiness and by doing right by Christ, so we can encourage and influence one another.

We must realize that the essence of keeping no record of wrongs is to give up our right of retaliation. When love tells us not to keep a record of wrongs, we must do just that. And, when someone does something against us, even out of malice, we are to let it go! This goes against our human nature (and definitely against my personal feelings), but God does not want us to live our lives by our nature and feelings. He wants us to live our lives by Him alone. This is holiness, to be "set apart" for God so He can use us on a higher standard. We are to live differently, not be infused by the world's morality, and be an example of the standard of Christ. If we are not an example of Christ, then no one will see Christ. We cannot do the work of God unless we are the people of God. We must give up our right of revenge. When we do this, the grievances that we have stored up within us disappear; the hurts and resentments vanish. Then, the body of believers will grow and will be encouraged, and we will model the truth of Christ to one another and to our neighbors.

The opposite of holding grievances is the attitude of faithfulness. We must realize that God has done great things for us. We should live our lives every day as an example to those around us of our God's greatness. We can do this by being faithful to who Christ is because of what He's done for us. The great Reformation slogans of Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude must be primary focuses for the Christian. We all have sinned and fall short-way short-of God's Holy standards. Thus, we are all guilty and deserve punishment and annihilation by God. We have no commendable attributes or worth by which we deserve redemption. It's only because of God's great eternal love and grace that He first loved us, and by that we have been saved. He has chosen those who put their faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Out of the realization of our fallen nature and the realization of what Christ has done for us, we should be compelled to an attitude of gratitude. That gratitude will nullify the grievances and bitterness.

God Calls us to Faithfulness

His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matthew 25:21

Faithfulness helps us identify and line up to God's will so we can be dependable and trustworthy to God and others. So we can be loving and forgiving. It is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the other Fruit(s) of the Spirit are from the Spirit working in us. Thus, faithfulness becomes our authenticity to others, pointing them to Christ who is the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him. If we do not practice this important character in our lives as Christians or collectively as a church, we will lose or miss out all together on seeing God come through with His promises.
 
When we are not exercising our faith, we will be consumed with doubt and distrust-the opposite of God's call and plan for us. This, in turn, becomes a turn off to those outside the Church.

Faithfulness is very difficult to have or hold on to, especially when applying it to our work and relationships. We tend to lose our patience with God, thinking He is just a blessing machine, and then when we do not get what we want, we leave Him because of our uncertainty or disappointment. Yet, Faithfulness is the fruit that we give to God so He can change us inside and out; this then helps make Him known through us and our church. It is the ability to take what Christ has done in us and be a blessing to others with loyalty and trust.

Faithfulness goes against modern psychology and society's thinking, as it requires us to move beyond ourselves; whereas, psychology tells us to be selfish, putting the "me" first, rearranging the world to our needs, which creates self-destruction and broken relationships. However, we are not to "run" our church by the ways of the world or our desires. We have to keep the goal of faithfulness in our minds always, as it will allow God to work deeper, and us to respond to His call. God has bigger things at stake for you, much more than our petty complaints or things we ask of Him!

We should walk in our faith and model it to those around us with the attitude of being thankful, even in the midst of stressful and bad situations. God expects more from the Christian, especially the more we know of Him. We should be grateful in service and worship to God. Out of a purposeful grateful attitude will come faithfulness, and that faithfulness will become an important witness to the non-Christian. We live in a world that shows so little faithfulness, and so little compassion and caring. Being consistent with compassion and listening is what faithfulness is.

If you're in a dire situation, you must realize the hope that lies ahead. Being thankful and grateful will allow you to go through it smoother and better prepared to handle life's extreme moments than focusing on the stress and situation and then responding out of your frustrations, hurting people because you hurt.

If you're in a situation where you are feeling wonderful and things are going great, you need to beware, and not allow your good fortune to become a substitute for God. We cannot rely on success, because if we do, we are relying on nothing. I have seen too many Christians who were successful, both financially and/or socially, lose it all because God seemingly turned their prosperity into desolation. The reason was to teach them a lesson of humbleness and faithfulness. I have seen this in my own life by gaining financial security only to lose it all because I started trusting and relying on the wealth and not on my Lord.

We should strive to learn the lesson first so we do not have to go through a bad situation. It would be easier to have a mother tell you the stove is hot and you should not touch it, but it is human nature to want to try it for ourselves; so, we get burned. Hopefully, as we mature and grow, we will stop touching things we're not supposed to-such things as greed, hypocrisy, un-faithfulness, and ingratitude, because these things produce worldliness, not holiness. The Christian's mandate is to be an adequate witness to the world; we must model a thankful and faithful lifestyle, and put away our pride and thoughts of retaliation, doing whatever it takes to dissolve our grievances with one another!

© 1999, 2007, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org

© 2007 - 2018 Institute of Church Leadership Development - All Rights Reserved.
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