In an interview with Christianity Today, author Anne Rice stated: “Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love.” I understand the reasons for this are complex, and it isn’t unfair to question whether our society understands what truly loving someone looks like. That said, I would caution ourselves to not dismiss the charge without some deep reflection. As the faith of the early church spread throughout the Roman Empire, Christians became objects of suspicion and curiosity. Romans were suspicious of the church’s “love gatherings” (as though they were incestuous), or of the rumours of feasting upon the blood and body of another. But they were also curious. In giving up their pagan beliefs and practices, the Christians formed communities of faith and care that demonstrated a level of service and love to one another theretofore unseen. The early church father Tertullian records that Romans would remark, “See how they love one another.” During the deadly 2nd Century Antonine Plague, Romans could not fathom why Christians would risk their lives serving the sick within the community – even people with whom they had no relationship. Can we honestly say our society could look upon the Church today and say that our chief characteristic is our love for one another and/or our community?
Many churches (and Christians) struggle to love and serve in a way reflective of the God we serve because we, wrongly, believe that worshipping God is somehow at odds with serving others physically, socially, emotionally, economically, etc. We reason that the eternal needs of the soul infinitely outweigh the temporary needs of the body, and so we become “Word” people at the expense of being “Deed” people. Why do we pitch as enemies two realities that are meant to be friends? Paul taught that all we do in word and deed was to be done in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17). Our deeds are consequences of godliness, and a critical component of evangelism: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)”. Jesus called us to, “let our light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)”
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as Narnia begins thawing and spring comes again, there is a sense that Aslan is on the move. Some who do not know Aslan smell the flowers and hear rustling waters, they see statues come to life, and slaves set free; and in so doing, they long to meet the King who rules such a kingdom. Our King Jesus is mighty in word and deed; may we be a church rich in both, such that the attributes of our King, and the hope and joy within his Kingdom are evident to all!