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Last night, we gathered with church friends and our teens gathered with theirs. By glows of spicy autumn candlelight, food filled counters, the aroma of rich coffee, a few overstuffed couches, games a plenty, contagious laughter, and prayer needs galore, we found community. Authentic. Transparent. Honest. Giving. Sacrificial. Courageous. Hopeful. Fun. Loving community.

We adults read through I Corinthians 13–the looooove chapter as we began our 40 Days Of Community study. The verses took on a new meaning for us by the night’s end. It felt more urgent somehow, more necessary, more clear. Love. Love Church. Love. I Corinthians 13 reminded us how and how not to love. If you’re willing, I’ll wait while you look it up…

I Corinthians 13

So, how are you doing in your love department? I had to ask myself that question last night. Honestly, as I had remembered the twenty-four hours prior, I saw where I failed. The tones I used in conversation replayed in my head, a motive for posting something on social media came to mind, words I spoke in jest tapped on my shoulder. So, what about you? What if we both saw ourselves as loving but in some ways we weren’t? What if something that we thought we did or said in love contradicted what others observed and heard from us? My thoughts have been contemplating these personal questions ever since last night.

The world sees the Church as a whole as rude, arrogant, self-centered, contradictory, inconsistent, dis-unified, fearful, cheap, and weak. Are they really far off? Maybe yes and maybe no. For example, my daughters have both worked in the restaurant industry and have served church members fresh from the church pew. Instead of love, generosity, or grace–rudeness, impatience, and irritation bombard servers. Sometimes, chilling indifference meet the service they give with smiles. This behavior confuses the youth who sit among us within the church buildings we worship in. The frustration runs deep in our children and in those adults who know this shouldn’t be. Church, let this serve as a loving reminder to both of us, it’s time for consistency. I don’t care what generation we were raised in or what the world says we should act like based on our age, experience, circumstance, or history. Truly following Christ trumps it all, doesn’t it? He calls us to love. Consider these words tough love today for us both, okay?

With all that said, thanks to God, there are those of us seeking to truly love. There are so many. However, the pains of my own self-awareness are real, as I don’t always love with perfection. At the root of my hesitation to love, when I’m faced with a full blown catastrophic flood of emotion, I discover fear. Fear in many forms keeps me from loving others as I should. I’m now asking myself as well as you, are we as the Church weaving any fear amongst our efforts of love?

I observed something last night, a gathering in true friendship and community to get honest. If there ever was a time to face the truth about how we love, it’s now isn’t it? I believe listening to what the Holy Spirit says through verses like I Corinthians 13 will help us. Disunity in Christian relationships and the Church crouches at our doors, wanting to tear us apart. Are you ready to deal with personal fear with me? We can–

Love may look like many things like–respect, honor, charity, mercy, generosity, kindness, hospitality, self-control, joy, peacemaking, patience, faithfulness, overlooking an offense, prayer for another, a gift, sharing, or grace. It appears the time has come to extend more grace to those around us. It’s time. It’s time to let love reign in our minds and hearts for the glory of the one Who is love–our God.

People will know–know we are Christians by our love. Join me in this today. Let’s make the decision (if we are) to stop playing church, okay? May God willingly transform His Church by His love. May Holy Spirit draw those that were once offended into His fold and forgive us, all because of His great love for all of us.

Jesus replied:“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:      ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

Church, I love you. Let’s let love reign.

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