There’s a lot of talk today about the declining state of the Christian church in the US. More are attending churches less frequently, most churches are in decline, and there is a growing number of people who indicate a “non-faith” position.
These social realities have church leaders wringing their hands in anxiety. But I don’t share that anxiety, and it has to do with the nature of the church, which is derived from the nature of God.
This needs some unpacking.
In western Christian theology, the doctrine of God is sometimes broken down into attributes. God is just. God is merciful. God is faithful, and so on.
In eastern Christian theology, there is only one central attribute of God. Love. God is love, and every other characteristic of God is a reflected through God’s love.
I think our eastern brothers and sisters are on to something, and it’s got me thinking about what I hope for among the believers and the church I pastor.
Here’s what I long to see…
That we be a light that illuminates the love of God.
God is renewing all things. Our job is to love. We trust God to illuminate. Again, our job is to love.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
The dimensions of this love runs in four directions: love of God, love toward self, love for others, and love for the world. Love of God is the primary dimension, but the relationship between each dimension is symbiotic. Each dimension of love strengthens and sustains the other dimensions. But our relationship to our loving creator-redeemer is primary.
Our love of God is the most empowering way to love ourselves and others. But it’s challenging to sustain a love for God without the love of others. We need the love of others, as imperfect as it may be, to illuminate the love of God.
And that’s why I maintain hope in the body of Christ as the hope of the world. As the body of Christ, we are gifted people loved by God, who express our gifts of love in differing ways to one another and to the world that God loves. Is there anything more compelling than that?