Building the House of God: Prophetic Love
The foundation of the church is built on the rock of putting into practice Jesus' words. We're nothing if we aren't laying down our lives for one another. Being prophetic means that every person born a second time has the ability to look into the lives of others and love the way God does.
Recently someone from another state called and really wanted to come visit the church here. He said that his whole life he has dreamed about a church where it’s the way it’s supposed to be according to the Bible, where people’s lives are intertwined and daily “in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). He said that for years he has been in a church setting and had just about given up hope that it could ever be the way the Bible said it’s supposed to be and once was.
When it comes right down to it, I think the reason I’m uncomfortable when I hear someone say, “My Bible is soaked with tear stains from crying over the book of Acts and the way God once worked in His people, and the way the church used to be and it’s not anymore,” is because what it really is about is loving one another. If we don’t do that, the rest is just a bad gimmick. It has to be the doing of the dishes, the making of the beds, the lending of the vehicles, the $20 bill that’s stuffed in someone’s pocket. It has to be that. There is no gimmick, no “thing,” no form, invention or creation or sort of format—formal, informal or otherwise. That isn’t what it’s about. It’s about laying down our lives for one another as Jesus did first for us. It’s about walking out the Sermon on the Mount, believing God and functioning sacrificially with love, with no need of appreciation or respect in return. It’s just simply individual people loving Jesus more than they love themselves, and loving others the same way. As you put all of that together, what you get is a church like the one you read about in the book of Acts where no one counted any of their possessions as their own.
Was that something in their charter that said that, “this church is the people that don’t count our possessions as our own,” or, “we are the people that do this,” or, “we all believe in that, so we will come over here together”? That isn’t what it’s about. That isn’t why no one counted any of their possessions as their own back then. They didn’t do that because that’s the way a “neat” church does things. There was no comparison or contrast. There were no other churches. Those were simply people that believed Jesus and loved Him and His word more than they loved themselves and their own personal needs. They trusted Him to be their provider, they trusted Him to be their healer, their rock and their fortress and their high tower, and they loved one another as they loved themselves, as Jesus first loved them.
The product of all of that, with no gimmick involved at all, was church. The rest of it just took care of itself. Love Jesus. Love your brother. That’s the sum of the law. That fulfills the law. Frankly, an environment that allows something other than that, as Paul said, “a curse be on everyone who doesn’t love the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:22). There is a potential of an environment that is so filled with pompous religion and hypocrisy, and so filled with leaven that it undoes all that. It unravels the Word of God and denies the Lordship of Jesus. It’s possible to have an environment that is such that these things that you are reading about aren’t nurtured and cultivated and aren’t expected. They are not the foundation; they are just simply some room in the house somewhere. You walk through the house, and if you happen to open the right door, you find a group of people somewhere in this big house, this “church,” where there are some people that love each other. “Ah-ha! I found the right door! That will be my clique that I will associate with.” But the house is defiled. There just happens to be one room with a few people in it that really want the right thing.
Well, the house of God is meant to be homogenous. If the house is not built on the rock of putting into practice His words, rather than just simply singing about it, that house will crash when the storms come. Bring the storm. Lord, haste the storm. Because every house that is not built on the rock, on uncreated things, on the love of Jesus, will ultimately fall, and we want to avoid the deception of being religious as opposed to loving one another.
Plant this in your heart and mind: we are nothing as a whole or individually, or as a household (single or otherwise)…we are nothing if we don’t lay down our lives for one another. The rest is just religion, and I don’t mean that in a good sense, because real religion is caring for the fatherless and the widow and not becoming spotted and defiled by the world. Little children, love one another.
Faith to move mountains? Well, “big deal,” is what Paul said, if you don’t have love. We’ve defied the Son of God who said to lay your gift down at the altar. Walk away from any religious thing that you would do…any good deed that you would do…any worship that you would offer. Walk away from it. It can wait. “Go make your relationships right,” he said. “You are wasting your time coming to me if you won’t first go to your brother and make it right. It’s a clanging gong, a sounding brass. It’s worthless.”
Consider right now if there are any walls, any barriers, any withholding. You may be a wonderful, nice, sweet person and not have any gripes, and yet not have really opened up your heart either. That’s just as bad. That’s not what Jesus called you to…to be a nice, sweet, shallow person. He called you to enter into the hearts and the lives of your brothers and sisters. Whether it’s a difficulty, a problem, or a barrier…even if others already know about it…don’t get the idea that you are “not hurting anybody but yourself” if you have these barriers in your life that you won’t deal with. This is imperative.
It all comes down to this. This is the very heart and nature of what Jesus came to say and do. He could even offer his cheek to a man who was going to kill him. Betray him. A liar. A hypocrite. A friend. He could offer his cheek for a kiss, knowing full well that he was going to get slaughtered for it. That’s the sort of vulnerability and openness that He’s called us to have. Nothing else is truly Biblical Christianity.
Forget the happy meetings. That’s not the issue. Now, if everyone loves one another in that sort of way, you are going to have some very special times when everybody is in the same room. That’s what it’s about. What matters is, “Do we love one another and are we living that out? Do we love Jesus and are we living that out?” What happens in a corporate gathering is irrelevant if those things aren’t in order. If those things are in order, it doesn’t matter what happens in a corporate gathering. In those quiet times, you are loving one another, instead of selfishly considering yourself—yawning, looking at your watch or just burying your chin in your chest, hoping that you won’t have to say or do anything. Instead, you are praying for people in the room. You are looking around the room and caring for them and considering their needs and asking God to give them peace, rest, strength, wisdom, revelation. You are pouring out your heart for them the same way you read about Paul pouring out his heart for the brothers and sisters that he wrote to in Colossi and Philippi and other places.
The sort of heart that loves one another isn’t passive. It’s very active. If all these faces happen to be in front of you, then inside of each heart, behind each set of eyes, sitting in each chair, is a story. You know enough of that story, probably, to care and to pray and to wrestle to ask God to extend His arm and His hand toward them to free them and to encourage them, to feed them, to meet their needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That’s what it’s about. It isn’t about having some uplifting time. “Wow, what did you think? Was that a good time?” Who cares? Are you obeying Jesus? Do you love Him with all your heart? Are you laying down your life for those in your household and the church at large and on the job? Are there barriers? Are there walls? Or is there freedom? Is there love and self-sacrifice?
Again, God will bring everything else together if we will fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens by carrying the cross for them and loving them and their lives and their futures more than we love our own. It’s very practical as well as measurable. What would happen if someone could follow you around to see if you were living this way or just thinking about it?