January 20, 2014

They Will Know Us by Our Love

On Saturday morning I went to a coffee shop to write. Or possibly it was a Turkish restaurant. Or a patisserie. It was one of these things, or maybe all of them. It was mostly empty.

It could have been the dreary weather, but I think one of the reasons it was empty is related to the fact that I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. There was a little food, a little coffee, some wines and beers, and somewhere a bunch of people were baking, but it wasn’t clear that they did any of these things well.

It seems to me that a successful organization needs to know what it is, what it does, and needs to make this clear to visitors.

This made me think about the church. How would visitors describe us, if they couldn’t use the word “church”?

Is it clear to everyone who visits that the purpose of my Church is to follow Jesus Christ and to love and serve? Or is it just a large room or an organization that does many things, but none of them particularly well?

Jesus said to his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It seems to me that this is how you should recognize a church. Not by the stained glass or the liturgy. Those things matter, of course, as does theology. Churches have conflict, they disagree, and they do a lot more than spend time loving each other.

But perhaps that this is how visitors should recognize a church, by the way we love. Whatever else we do, whatever our theology, we should be a community whose members clearly and openly love one another, even if we fail sometimes, a place that tries to serve and to offer the love of God to anyone and everyone who enters the door.