Yesterday evening I attended an evening service at a new church. Let me tell you, there is something holy about getting to experience two of the greatest things in a single Sunday: sleeping in AND worship. Call me a fan! Since I moved to Dallas, I have struggled to find a new church. And if I am being honest, I wasn’t that motivated. It is an intimidating process. No matter how much a church may advertise that they “welcome outsiders,” it is rare to walk into a church and not immediately be able to point out the cliques. It makes finding a new church feel more burdening than it should. Of course, let me also disclose the fact that I am introvert, which only adds to the intimidation factor of the process.
So of course, I walk in with my mental list of things that I am looking for…great worship, scripture-based message (this is harder to find than you think), a pastor that doesn’t find it necessary to sugar coat hard truths, great atmosphere, etc. And this is the nice version of my list. Let’s just say my mental list is a little more on the sassy side than is okay to disclose to the public. However, I was completely surprised by my experience. Not only did this church meet all of the requirements in said mental checklist, but it was a perfect blend of contemporary and traditional. I immediately felt like I belonged.
It. Was. Awesome.
However, what made this experience so great was the message. The title of the sermon series was “Love: What is It?” When I see anything on the topic of love, my guards immediately go up. I become cautious because our culture has taken “love” and tried it’s very best to pervert it in any way possible. Unfortunately we can not always count the church to be blameless in this effort. We see this in the way that scripture is shredded into pieces and glued together to reveal a picture of ourselves rather than Christ. Furthermore, anytime one takes the word “love” and uses it as a label for what is really personal desire– we have a problem.
Time and time again, I have seen people throw around the word “love” like it is the latest slang. Yes, we love our families, our spouses, our church, and these are all nice and Godly things. But… we also love our new purse, that new movie that came out, that “hot” celebrity, the latest technology… you get the picture. The latter list could go on forever, but what about the first? We must step back, look at our life, and ask ourselves if we are loving what is appropriate to love. Or the better question is, are we loving the way that we are called to love?
These were the questions that went through my head last night as the pastor preached from Philippians 2: 1-11, which reads:
(1) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, (2)complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (3) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (4)Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7)but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Do nothing from selfish ambition…
Count others more significant than yourselves…
Look to the interests of others…
I don’t know about you, but these words are a wake up call. The pastor made the point that to love is to be willing to “submit yourself, to limit yourself, to restrict your freedom.” He used the example of living with someone before marriage. It is easy to live with someone before marriage because one can experience everything the married life has to offer without the level of commitment that restricts their freedom to leave whenever life outside of that relationship presents a better offer. But to really love that person would be to willingly restrict that freedom and commit to that relationship, regardless of whatever may come.
When we love this way, meaning we willingly submit ourselves and restrict our freedom, we suddenly understand exactly how the Gospel is calling us to love. The needs of others become more important than our own personal desire. And when we realize this, we are able to care for people in such a way that we become protective of their walk with God. In fact, in every interaction that we have with them, we begin to put God first not only in our own life, but in theirs as well. And as a result of this, we are always encouraging the best in them. Love itself does not have limitations, God’s love is endless and unconditional. However, perfect love meets us where we are at, meaning that their are loving boundaries set in place. Therefore to really love someone– or rather, to love them well, is to be willing to set appropriate boundaries.
It is my prayer that as we continue to pursue Christ, we allow the way He loves us to exemplify the way that we love others.