Culturally, it’s become more and more uncomfortable for people who follow Jesus. Christianity is called exclusive. Christians are called intolerant. Christian ethics are considered outdated. And, so, before we open our mouths to share the good news about Jesus many people have already made up their minds. Some Christians respond by retreating. We take a defensive posture toward society and assume that we should just focus on protecting ourselves and consoling one another. When we do, our faith becomes a shell of what the New Testament describes. Remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The true church is on the offensive, seeking to rescue those held in darkness, and nothing can prevail against it.
Over the last couple of weeks, the passages that I’ve preached from 1 Thessalonians have focused on our need for people (See: We’re Better Together). Time invested in fellowship with other Christians is God’s means for our growth, strength and protection. With that fresh in my mind, the blog article sitting in my inbox caught my attention, “Loving the Church but Dreading Sunday Morning.” It talked about the challenge of Christian fellowship for someone who struggles with social anxiety. Apparently, the author’s not alone. One statistic I read said that 18% of the population suffers from some kind of anxiety disorder and more than a third of those receive no treatment. So how do you manage the anxiety that keeps you from the people you need?
I’m embarrassed to say that I often need to remind myself that the heart of my faith is loving my neighbour. Today, it’s easier for people to be annoyed by their neighbours, threatened by their neighbours or not even know their neighbours. Part of loving our neighbours involves understanding them. On Saturday, I learned much from Dr. Amal Gendi on how to love the Muslim neighbours that are more and more a part of our community.
Love your God; love your neighbour. God’s desire for the way we live our lives couldn’t be more clear. And yet there are obstacles. We can have good intentions for our lives but if we don’t address some of the habits and patterns that stand in the way, it’s easy for us to live in regret. Loving God surely involves listening to Him through His Word and speaking to Him in prayer. You can’t love someone you never listen to nor speak with. Loving our neighbour begins in the same place. We take the time to connect and listen and speak with the people around us. There’s one obstacle to both of these things that we probably think too little about. Getting a handle on this one thing could revolutionize your spiritual life in 2018. Yes, I’m talking about our beloved cell phones.
The story of Priscilla Nicoara is for me a very powerful account of the power of love in a person’s life. She tells the story of her encounter with the love of Jesus at the web-site, I Am Second. We sometimes think of love in abstract terms or in purely romantic terms, but Priscilla’s life demonstrates the human need for love, the search for love and the transforming power of love.
You may think there's a typo in my title. Often pastors talk about the importance of not just being Sunday Christians. "We've got to live out the Good News throughout the week." That's really important to me too. But I think it's important to think about how to be Christian, how to act Christian when we come to church on Sunday too. There are many things we could talk about, and so this is a theme I will revisit in the future, but for now let's talk about loving our neighbour in the pew.