By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
Christians are commanded to love (John 13:34-35; John 15:12). But loving people means we get our hands dirty. It means we invest in people’s lives. It means we sacrifice our time even when we don’t feel like it. It means we stop looking at outward appearances and think “souls.” It means we stop judging at every little word or deed. It means we get to know one another more than just causally in a church foyer.
Real love means we learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It means we occasionally set aside our own goals and ambitions to cry with someone or laugh with someone. It means we gently rebuke and speak the Truth in love because we want that person to go to heaven more than wanting to avoid conflict. It means we lay aside our pride and stop comparing ourselves or our families to others. It means we stop isolating ourselves, and instead, disciple a group of people. It means we discover other people have baggage–lots of baggage, but we love them anyway.
Jesus spent most of his ministry with twelve people–and some of that time He focused in on just three. He could have spent all his time preaching to multitudes. He could have preached every night in different locations in an effort to reach as many as He could. He could have organized all kinds of programs and events to try and emphasize His message. But instead He invested time, energy, teaching, and love into just twelve. Those twelve then took what He shared with them and multiplied that love out to others.
This type of love is not something that comes from a church program or an event with 200 people. It’s the type of love that is cultivated over meals in one another’s homes. It’s the type of love that grows from staying over too long at one another’s house sharing a deep conversation–even if you know you have to be at work early in the morning. It’s the kind of love that is shaped by running errands together. It is the kind of love shown by holding hands with someone in a waiting room and never saying a word. It is the kind of love that is grown through hours and hours of being together. You can’t force a congregation into this type of love. And you can’t fake it.
Does your congregation really show love? I’m not asking do they provide meals when you are sick? Or do they support your child’s school play? I’m asking: Are you intentionally engaged into other’s lives–in one another’s homes all the time? Do you have a group of people who encourage one another to study more deeply into His Word? Are you caring for the sick and shut-ins without being forced or without a formal plan? Are you laughing and crying together? The fact is, in America, most Christians do not allow people into their lives. Sure, we have Facebook and Instagram. But we don’t actually have intimate friends. Most men in their 30’s and 40’s are lucky if they have 2-3 intimate friends that they can truly open up to–who they can share their successes and failures with.
Here’s the dirty little secret we don’t talk about much: Real Christianity is messy–because it entails getting intimately involved in other people’s lives. And deep down most people are scared to allow other’s into their lives that deeply. But that’s what real discipleship looks like. Let me remind you again, that’s what we are called to do. We are commanded to love others–not just smile and say “hi” to them in the foyer. So what about you? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and really get your hands dirty…for Him?