Posts Tagged ‘Love’

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C.S. Lewis on Love is…

October 25, 2012

C.S. Lewis and the Pain of Love

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Below is a poem by our great friend Jack, Love is tears, fire, spring, and nails…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love’s as warm as tears,
Love is tears:
Pressure within the brain,
Tension at the throat,
Deluge, weeks of rain,
Haystacks afloat,
Featureless seas between
Hedges, where once was green

Love’s as fierce as fire,
Love is fire:
All sorts–Infernal heat
Clinkered with greed and pride,
Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,
Laughing, even when denied,
And that empyreal flame
Whence all loves came.

Love’s as fresh as spring,
Love is spring:
Bird-song in the air,
Cool smells in a wood,
Whispering “Dare! Dare!”
To sap, to blood,
Telling “Ease, safety, rest,
Are good; not best.”

Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

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Leave Alone, well enough…

May 30, 2012

“But I don’t feel alone”, you might say, “I have a great family, many friends, I love my church and I never really feel isolated.” First off, praise God in His mercy He has allowed you to enjoy what few in this world have for any long period of time. There are three VERY important things to remember if you find yourself in a period of emotional relational satisfaction.

First, give God the glory everyday for the blessings you have received, rightly ascribe glory to Him in your situation. The fact that you feel satisfied relationally is not due to the fact that you’re so stinkin cute, or that you’re the nicest person on the planet. The fact that you experience the blessing of good relationships is because God has so blessed you, do not add to this blessing the sin of pride by trying to take the credit for what you enjoy.

Second, Be a comfort to others who are less fortunate, there are two ways to comfort:

-One, take care of those who have, through circumstances or situations, lost relationships and now are experiencing isolation and loneliness. Being part of a community, ie the church, or your family, comes with responsibilities. Both Paul and James admonish those in the church to look after widows and orphans, those who are truly without anyone to rely upon. This can occur by inviting a widow in your neighborhood over for dinner, taking the time to have conversations. This might even mean adopting an orphan who has no one to call father or mother.

-Two. Be sensitive to those around you who may be less secure in their relationships and may not be as satisfied. This is akin to the weaker brother/stronger brother discussion in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:13, we do not flaunt our freedom in the face of others, we don’t lord over others, rather we are sensitive to the fact that we may have those among us who need prayer and care.

Third, Be on your guard. Loneliness is not something that we leave in the dirt behind us when we reach some plateau of relational perfection. Many things can suddenly afflict us with a sense of isolation and a feeling of loneliness. Outside factors can contribute to sudden isolation: deaths, being fired, being dumped, being betrayed, business travel. Inner factors can also lead to the lonely experience: sin against God, harboring bitterness and resentment, fatigue, illness, and anger can all make us feel isolated from God and others. The Bible calls us to be sober-minded and prepared for action. In times of plenty we take in a harvest and store up provision for times of famine. Build your life around the Word of God and take comfort from the promises contained therein, commit them to memory for there will come a time when you will need to call to mind the promises of God. Those who meditate on the Word of the Lord day and night will be like trees planted by streams of waters, able to weather any draught. (Psalm 1)

Continually live in Christ, striving to enjoy the peace of God that passes all understanding, His peace will guard your hearts and minds. (Phil 4:7) Remember to put away all matters of deceit and strife, anything that puts difficulty between yourself and others, so that you might continue to enjoy the body of Christ, being of one mind with others, having among yourselves the mind of Christ. (Phil 2:5-11)

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Releasing Resentment Through L.O.V.E….

May 24, 2012

The long-term effects of resentment are insidious and deadly.  One who is persistently resentful is displaying a pattern of sinful un-repentance and willful disregard for God’s grace.  Resentment rarely stays confined to one person.  You can walk into any office, or even any church and if there is great resentment in even one individual slowly the effects spread to others until the feeling is palpable.  The writer in Hebrews had this in view when he wrote that the church was to “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15 This “root of bitterness” maybe many things, but a definite fruit of bitterness is resentment, and if left uncheck it will defile many.

We are at all times as God’s children to display God’s love.  And Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  A resentful heart, left in an unrepentant condition fails to reflect the love of God.

Ultimately, resentment can kill.  If left un-treated, and un-checked it will weaken us until we break.  And if we ontinue throughout our lives to harbor resentment then one could rightly question whether or not we have truly experienced the graceof God through salvation.  The Gospel has the power to overcome ALL that we deal with, and it has the power to break the bonds of hate and resentment that trap our minds in the past and steal our joy.  As Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2  The gospel not only rights our relationship with God, it radically transforms our very being so that our minds are free to discern rightly what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Releasing Resentment through LOVE…

Like depression and other emotional stress, bitterness and resentment can aggravate or cause physical problems such as arthritis. You can be affected mentally, spiritually and otherwise. Your relationships will always suffer.

God can free you from this sin. It is an oppressive and destructive emotion having its root in hate, which is likened to murder. You must repent. No one can have peace and happiness with such emotions tearing at him. If you have not done so, ask God to forgive you and to come into your life right now. He will deliver you from the power of the enemy (Psalm 91:3).

If you are already a Christian, you should still ask God to forgive you for being bitter and resentful. Then ask Him to forgive anyone who may have hurt you, and toward whom you are bitter or resentful, even as He forgives you.

Look for opportunities to demonstrate love to the person who offended you.

God forgives and forgets sin. However, you may have made your best effort to forgive and forget and find that you cannot. God can help you to cleanse your memory. Instead of remembering with malice and hurt, remember with forgiveness. Then go one step further and ask God to forgive your offender. By forgiving and then asking God to forgive your offender, you release God to bless you and the other person.[1]

It is important to display God’s L.O.V.E. to others, if we do this it is difficult to build up resentment and be paralyzed by anger.

First, Leave your comfort zone.  Jesus called the disciples away from what was familiar and towards a life of sacrifice and love.  “Take up your cross, and follow me.” We face the same call, to leave our comfort zones, what is familiar and embark on the mission God has for us.

Second, Orient yourself to serve.  Jesus called the disciples to act, but he also called them to serve, to serve one another, and the communities they lived in by proclaiming the gospel.  Jesus washed their feet, and afterwards told them in John 13 ‘“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”  It is not enough to just receive, we must also give, and we are “blessed” when we do so with delight.  We are never more like Christ than when we humble ourselves to serve those around us.

Third, we must Venture out.  The disciples and the early church did not just stay in the upper room.  They did not just hang out in Jerusalem.  Rather Jesus called them to go into the whole world preaching the gospel, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  And they did this in a progression, look at Acts 1:8, first to Jerusalem (their hometown so to speak), then to Judea and Samaria (their states and regions) then to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Loving your neighbor, is implied in sharing the gospel, for what greater gift do you have than the testimony of one who gave so much that all might have eternal life.  Love should start in our homes, then our neighborhoods, then out cities, states, nation and the world.

Finally Encourage those around us.  This is not just a simple high-five, great game kind of encouragement.  This is an encouragement toward godliness and holiness.  When you think about when you first came to Christ, do you remember when you messed up, when you failed, when you fell short and became discouraged?  How great was it to have neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ there to encourage you.  God receives glory when we bear much fruit, and our fruit in the spirit is; “LOVE…joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, ” against these things there is no law.(Gal 5:22-24)  It is when we love one another and bear fruit that we prove that we are in Christ and are His disciples. (John15:8)   The greatest source of emotional security for the believer, is a fruitful life lived in the spirit, acting in love toward each other.  Leaving our comfort zone, Orienting ourselves for service, Venturing out, and Encouraging those around us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Your neighbor is in need, will you go? Will you serve? Will you encourage? If you allow these things to reign in your heart, you surely will be like a tree amidst your neighborhood, bearing much fruit, fruit that lasts, prospering in what ever you do. (Ps.1:3)

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Recognizing Resentment…

May 22, 2012

 

 

We have examined over the past several weeks the struggles of doubt, jealousy, anger and complacency.  Each one of those traits and struggles is fundamentally sourced in human pride and sinfulness.  And with each we have examined the individual ways and strategies to combat their ill-effects.  But what happens when those ill-effects linger?  What happens if we fail to combat anger with the love and mercy of God?  What effects occur when we fail to cast our eyes on Christ and overcome doubt?  What happens to our relationships when we fail to repent of our jealousy and rightly give glory to God for all He has given us and others? The answer to these questions is resentment.  Resentment is not a core condition, it is not a primary residence for feeling, rather resentment is the effect of the on-going presence of anger, jealousy, envy, doubt and pride.

Resentment is best described as being like rust.  We can drive over a bridge, or pass an old car and see the tell-tale signs of decay and destruction.  Rust weakens structures through the slow and deliberate reactionary process of decay.  But rust is not the primary cause of the weakness.  Rust is the after effect of a process called oxidation.  When iron metal is exposed to air (oxygen) and water the molecules begin to slowly decay.  The effect of this decay is rust.  If left untreated, rust will weaken the strongest structures and turn what was once dependable and sure into something that may appear strong but in fact is frail.  This is like resentment.  Resentment is a slow process, that begins with weaknesses inherent in the structure of our make up as sinful humans.  Without proper care and precaution, we harbor hatred and anger, un-forgiveness and jealousy and soon this creates resentment.  Slowly, perhaps in ways not obvious to others, we begin to corrode and decay, we become weak and ultimately unstable.

God has given us our emotions for His Glory; our memory for His Glory; our energy for His Glory, but resentment pollutes and perverts all of these gifts.  Resentment turns our emotions against us, as we take our eyes off of God and place them on others.  When we rightly place our gaze on God, we relate all occurrences to His mercy and grace; to the point that whenever something good happens to someone else we feel good and rejoice in what God has done for them.  But resentment occurs when we take our eyes off of God and look at other people, comparing our lives to theirs absent the perspective of God’s sovereignty.  We begin to be jealous of them, we’re envious and this slowly begins to produce within us resentment.

God has given us memory to recall His past glory and to shore up our future hope.  How glorious is one’s memory when it is rightly reflecting on what God has done.  But resentment molds our memories and steals our joy and hope.  Its like an overdeveloped photograph, you can see faint details of the event captured, but the overall picture of the past is overwhelmed by this tinge of haze that crowds out the details of the picture.  Resentment colors events and crowds out the good details of the past and overemphasizes the negative ones.  We can see this so clearly in the Exodus narrative.  The Israelites are delivered from 400 years of slavery and bondage and once in the wilderness slowly begin to resent, well, everything.  The resent God, feeling as though He delivered them out to die in the wilderness.  They resent Moses because He is the only one who has communion with God.  And their memories are polluted by this resentment to the point that they begin to wish for their old life in Egypt.  This is why so often in the Psalms and in the Prophets the writers admonish the people of Israel to remember the works of the Lord!  Remember His goodness, do not be caught up in resentment; this gives us hope when we remember His love and care for us.

God has given us Energy for His glory, and by energy I mean the desire to be active and work for God.  God has given each and every one of us a task, no matter where we are in life to proclaim the gospel! We are to have an outward direction to our energies as we “go into all the nations…” baptizing and teaching, proclaiming the “marvelous excellencies of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:8)  But resentment redirects our energy.  Instead of pouring out, our energies are directed inward to ourselves.  We cease to be of any use for the kingdom as we spend so much time caught up in our own anger and envy of others.

Ultimately we may appear structurally sound, but if the sins of pride, jealousy, and anger have taken residence in our hearts, the rust of resentment begins to appear.  And if left un-addressed, overtime, it will eat away at us and we will become increasingly weak and less and less useful.

 

“Resentment is like you taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (Anonymous)

 

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5 Ways the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Our Lives….

April 6, 2012

There are many events of history that if I were to mention them to you this morning they would have very little if any meaning, even though they were monumentally important in history. No matter how important the battle, no matter how influential the personality, as time passes and their accomplishments fade the meaning behind what they have done likewise loses power. There is only one event in the course of human history that has never faded, will never fade and will always be as impressive and important today as it was 2000 years ago when it occurred; that event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As air entered His lungs, and His heart began to beat, and the stone rolled away the clock of the universe was reset and everything, absolutely everything changed. Satan’s grip on this world slipped, sin’s chains were loosed, and generations gained the first fruits of lasting hope that the end was in fact near. Despite these terrific accomplishments and undeniable effects, how many of us proceed through our days acting as if nothing ever changed? How many of us treat Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as a mere event in history? A mark on a timeline much like the fall of the Roman empire, or Columbus’ discovery of the new world. Monumental, yes, but distant events with little modern impact and no personal impact on or daily lives.

Here are 5 ways that the Resurrection gives meaning to our lives:

1. The Resurrection gives meaning to our faith and belief. Belief is the buzzword of religion in America today. You need to believe, she needs to believe, we all need to just believe. Belief is a word that can be used in any setting and it is entirely void of confrontation. Having faith is not a controversial stance. Many people if you were to stop them on the street or talk to them in coffee shops, would tell you that they have faith. Politicians can advocate a number of policies for and against everything from marriage to sexual ethics to defense policy and all be “people of faith.” But what is missing from the common popular conception of faith and belief is anything that grounds those activities in meaning. The question that the Christian must ask is “believe in what?” “believe in whom?” What do we believe in where is our faith placed? It is not enough to simply have faith, it is not enough to simply believe. In order for belief to have any real lasting eternal and temporal value it must be rooted and grounded in God through the work of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Resurrection gives our faith and our belief meaning. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that if Christ had not been raised from the dead then “our preaching is in vain, your faith is in vain.” Without the resurrection faith has no meaning. The only work which saves, the only work by which God has provided a way for sins to be forgiven was and is the resurrection. All these churches, all the missions, all the sermons, would all be nothing, but for the resurrection. If Christ has not risen from the dead then we of all people are “most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) Christ rising from the dead gives your faith meaning and purpose.

2. The resurrection gives meaning to your hope. Hope and change are ideas that corse through our culture, behind every tragic event and every cultural controversy. Politicians get your votes on the idea that hope can be realized. Everyone is searching desperately for something or someone to hope in. For so many people in the world today, the hope that they nurture and they hope they find dies with the movements they place their hope in. The hope that the world offers is a dead hope, a futile hope that is tied to death. As Christians, we live lives in the light of our hope in God, or at least we should. But how many of us walk through our daily lives and daily struggles devoid of any evidences true hope. According to scripture though, if we are born again, we are “born again to a living hope.” That living hope is found “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3) What enlivens the hope of the christian is the fact that our hope is tied directly to the fact that Jesus died for our sins and that he rose from the dead. This was according to God’s great mercy, and serves to give meaning to our hope. If we truly believe that this miracle occurred then we should have hope even in the face of death. So as you go through life and interact with others will you be able to give an evidence for the hope that is in you? You can have a living hope, not tied to any movement or any individual, but tied to the work of Christ on the cross for you. Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And His blood means something, and his righteousness is proven real because He has risen.

3. The Resurrection gives meaning to our love for one another. To the world love represents an opportunity. An opportunity to be served, an opportunity to be fulfilled, an opportunity to be complete and feel wanted and needed. Websites advertise how you can search through countless individuals for someone who matches what YOU want, and someone who will most likely satisfy what you need; be it adventure, love, security etc. On a more corrupt level, pornography gives the illusion of love but is wholly constructed to cater to lust. Pornography is like a cool light with no warmth, illuminating only our selfishness, finding our satisfaction at the expense of others. This is love to the world. The resurrection radically reorients all relationships and redefines love. The work of Christ is the ultimate display of love and gives us the model of how to love one another. Time and time again in the Bible we are told to love as Christ loved. If we love, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our wives (Eph 5:21) for our brothers (1 John 3:16) If we know love, according to the Apostle John, we know love by this, “that He [Jesus] laid down His life for us.” We have no greater love for one another than when we are willing to lay our lives down for our brother. The resurrection gives the loving sacrifice of Christ meaning, in that it points to the reality beyond His death. Because of His resurrection, our faith is sure, and our hope is grounded, so as a result we cease to love the way the world loves. We see in the Sermon on the Mount, when we are hated we respond in love, when we are tempted we respond in our love for God, when we are asked to love the world and its treasures we respond by loving and seeking our God first. Our love is real because our Lord is real, risen from the dead. Christian love has the potential to convey far more than any worldly love could attempt; it should reflect and flow from the act of Christ’s sacrificial love made real by the resurrection.

4. The resurrection gives meaning to our suffering. Why is there pain in the world? If there is a God and He is good then why do people suffer? These questions echo through hospital hallways, across battlefields and storm aftermaths throughout the world. Suffering cries out for an answer. For many Christians, suffering remains unanswerable. This world is broken, caught in a vicious cycle of sin and death which afflicts christians and non-christians alike with profound unfair suffering. Our lives are lived in the hope brought to us by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. ( 1 Peter 1:3). Because when Christ rose that Sunday morning so long ago he broke the cycle of sin, and the consequences of sin, death. His rising points to our future resurrection, through God’s power. This hope gives us the strength to view persecution as a “light momentary affliction.” For we know that no matter how difficult this life gets we have awaiting us a new abundant resurrected life. So we face unjust suffering as Christ did. He suffered for us, leaving us an example for us to follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21) Christ paved the way in both His suffering and His resurrection. Therefore, we “should not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us… but to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice.”(1 Peter 4:13) What awaits us is glory, a glory made sure by Christ’s resurrection.

5. The Resurrection gives meaning to death. The unbeliever trembles in the face of death. Death is the great unknown and the ultimate uncertainty. As a result non-christians and unbelievers spend much of their lives, and money, fleeing death and the effects of aging. Christians too, are not immune from this fear. Death seems mysterious, and many Christians act as if there is no hope when death occurs near them. Non-Christians (and functionally many Christians) Pursue life and fear only death. But this should not be. Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the most confident when approaching death, and should live their lives pursuing God and fearing only Him. When Jesus rose from the death the earth quaked at the realization that the old ways were finished, the power of death had been broken. For Jesus conquered death by rising from its clutches. As He rose from the dead imperishable He gave us a picture of what awaits us when we rise from the dead. Hear Paul as he wrote to the church at Corinth;

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power… 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed… then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through Christ we have victory, death is no longer the end, but only the beginning. As He was raised, so too will we be raised, and this promise removes the sting of death. Death is no longer meaningless, but becomes a means by which we experience victory and are joined with Christ to the Glory of the Father.

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Love and the City: The Greatest Text for Urban Witness…

March 12, 2012

Cities are truly miraculous places.  Tense with progress and teeming with energy and vibrancy.  Harvard economist Edward Glaeser in his great book, The Triumph of the City states that, “Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies.  They are proximity and closeness.”  While this is true, we as Christians must look beyond the physical existence of cities and recognize the hand of God in forming them and drawing people into them.  As I have said in previous posts, God creates proximity so that those searching for Him might find Him.  Acts 17:26-27 reads: “he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him, Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” 

While the world is content to use the metrics of absence to describe the city, we must do more.  Cities are not mere accidents of economics, nor are they defined by the absence of space between people.  Cities and their character are defined by the presence of God and the proximity to His witnesses.  Witness is key.  God has drawn these people together so that His glory might be seen by the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.  There is a reason that Pentecost and Peter’s sermon did not occur in the desert, or in some far-flung cave.

This brings us to the manner of our witness and how to engage with those in the city.  Cities breed adventurous apathy.  The opportunity to succeed in the city is great, but so too is the presence of failure.  People come to cities with a sense of adventure, but soon become apathetic to the prevalence of failure around them.  People cold and unconvinced by pleas for attention and messages of truth.  With this in mind,we must ask ourselves, how can we break through?

Though there are many texts in Scripture that speak to the means of and the need for evangelism.  One text reigns supreme in my mind for engaging the city.  I have seen it on display, used by church planters throughout NYC over the years of engaging that city.  I am not talking about Matthew 28 or Acts 1:8, or Acts 17.  The text that speaks to our task  is this:

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away…  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
  
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

It is not enough that we have the intellectual capacity to engage the minds of the city, or the media savvy to captivate the eyes of the city.  We must have love.  Pure, sacrificial love that wants nothing in return.  It does not matter if we desire to serve the needs of the city, or are willing to move into it and sacrifice blood and treasure to reach it.  We must love the people in the city, and display that love through service.

This passage informs both the task at hand and the promise of how to fulfill it.  It is not easy to love the those who question your motives, or those who are openly hostile to your efforts.  The only remedy for the apathy of the city is continual, persistent, abiding love witnessed in deeds of selfless followers of Christ.  A love that bears all and endures all.  We must create churches of faith, we must preach the hope that is in Christ alone, but above all we must be willing to love when we are not loved in return.  We must be willing to serve others, be patient with others, and be kind to others.  I am not speaking of a social gospel, that tends only to physical needs.  Rather a gospel that uses the meeting of physical needs through service to proclaim through deed and word the lavish love of God.

Surely this was modeled by God who stayed faithful to the faithless Israel.  Surely this was heard from Christ as He forgave those nailing Him to the cross.  What remains to be seen and remains to be heard, is whether or not our proximity to others will bear witness to God’s love in us.  May our growing presence in these cities be marked not by the mere absence of space; but by the abundance of God’s love lived out in service.