So if we start with the source of love, rather than starting at a hoped for outcome and work backwards, we get what we really need, and we are empowered to become people who are patient, kind, and unselfish. We become the kind of people who, as the ancient Church Father Clement of Alexandria put it, “practice being God,” for “God is love” (as the Apostle John put it), and those who know God best love the deepest.
But doesn’t that seem counterintuitive to much of what we witness in the world of faith? Those who know God best love the deepest? This would appear not to be the case. To hear the tale told, those who know God best are those who are the most doctrinally entrenched, the most committed to their particular dogma, denominationalism, or neo-puritanism.
Those who claim to know God the best are often the most inflexible, stubborn, and most difficult with which to work. Those who are the most “spiritual” can simultaneously be the most ungracious and unloving. Yet, this is a horrible oxymoron, inconsistent with a genuine relationship with God.
I interact with people all the time who think the solution to Christianity’s contemporary troubles is “more.” We need “more doctrinal statements; more declarations of what we believe, more clarification of right and wrong, more lines to determine who is in and who is out.” I would agree that the answer is “more,” for sure. But it is more God, resulting in more love, and that will make the difference.
The objections to such conclusions I hear all the time as well: “If we only focus on love, we’ll wander into all manner of error and heresy,” some will say. Maybe. But we cannot ignore the fact that the greatest act of sacrilege has nothing to do with doctrine. The greatest act of sacrilege is the failure to love one another.
We might have all of our doctrinal “T’s” crossed and our authoritative “I’s” dotted, but if we aren’t allowing the love of God to flow through us to others, then we have a lot of practice still to do.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author.