The enemy’s two primary tactics are ideas and isolation. If he can get you alone mulling over an idea, you’re in trouble. Why mention that right off the bat? Because that’s what’s happening right now. The enemy is a fear-monger. He slings fear around like a pulsating sprinkler. Just when you’re starting to feel good again, that thing comes whipping back around to douse you in another layer of fear. 

Case-in-point: the corona virus. Now, you should know that I grew up in the midwest but relocated to the northwest about 20 years ago. Growing up in the midwest, we dealt with snow, and especially in college I spent a lot of time driving in it. While you might think the northwest would get a lot of snow, the valley floor, which is where Portland and Vancouver are, doesn’t get much because of our proximity to the Ocean. So, when the weathermen predict snow, people go crazy and rush to the store to buy up all the tater tots. Then it usually doesn’t snow, or doesn’t snow as much as was predicted and people feel foolish. 

Last week, our entire country went crazy about the corona virus. People bought up all the hand sanitizer, cleaning product and stock piled toilet paper and water. I think we’ve been watching a little too much of the Walking Dead. And what’s with the water? Is the virus going to get in our water supply or something? Or were people really worried that civilization was going to come crashing down? 

What did we do as a result of the fear surrounding the virus? Well, the University of Washington cancelled in person classes until the end of the month. South by Southwest was cancelled. All across the country, events are being cancelled because of fear of the virus. Our food pantry has had to come up with a plan to deal with the spread of the virus. We have never had to talk about what we do to prevent the spread of the flu or the common cold. But, now we have talked about when we may need to shut down for a time. 

The enemy’s two primary tactic are ideas and isolation. Because we’re terrified of the idea of the corona virus, we’re isolating ourselves. 

This comes at a time when we’re already the most isolated we have ever been as a society. We have already withdrawn from many social norms to hibernate in front of our Netflix distribution devices, those things that used to be called Television. We’re consumed with consuming our Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney plus content at the expense of real-life, face to face, human to human interaction. 

As we’re talking about how love has to go beyond possession to being a person of provision, today we’re talking about going beyond performance to presence. 

In the world today and in the church we have reduced fellowship and community to a set of tasks that must be performed. We go to church, we go to small group, we serve with this ministry, etc. We go and perform a certain function then we go home. We show up late or at best right on time, we have to leave early because we have to get the kids to bed, finish up homework and we have this big project that is due tomorrow. We don’t have time to dwell with one another in love. 

But dwelling, abiding, remaining, residing in love takes time. The person of love abides. That’s what God does in us. God does not treat us like an activity that has to be performed. He abides in us. God’s Spirit is present in us. 1 Jn 4:13, 15 – “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Paul says in 1 Cor 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 

Love abides. God’s love for us was not only the cross, God’s love for us is also His presence. The cross made the presence possible. The cross dealt with the problem that kept us from God’s presence. But because of God’s love, God’s love abides in us. 
1 Jn 4:16 “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

We can only become love because God is present in us. We can become love because God’s love is flowing through us in the form of His Spirit. That’s how God loves us, by abiding in us. We can’t become love unless we abide in God’s presence. We have to dwell, reside, remain and live in the presence of God. How do we do that? 

Of course we should pray, read our Bibles and meditate. But, the way to spend more time in the presence of God is to spend more time with people who are carrying the presence of God. When we are together in sacrificial community with brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in the presence of God. And when we dwell, reside, remain, live in that, we stand a better chance at becoming love. When we treat it like a task to be performed we miss out on it all. When we are patient and willing to wait and linger with one another, God can do amazing things. 

Love must go beyond performance to presence. It’s going to be hard to become love if we don’t dwell in the presence of it. It’s going to be hard to love someone if we’re not in their presence. It’s going to be hard to experience and feel God’s love if we’re not where it can be found. 

Like we talked about yesterday, the presence of sacrificial love is the evidence of the presence of God. When we are living in the flow of God’s love, our love for one another will look like the love God displayed for us-a love that gives. This kind of love is the greatest evidence of God. Yes, we want to see God move in power and see people who are passionate about following Jesus. But, as we read in 1 For 13, Love remains. Love abides. Love Endures. 

I’ve been saying lately that we have to start saying no to other things so we can start saying yes to church things. The early church devoted themselves to one another. This last week I read an article about how church should be our excuse for missing everything else. And yesterday, I know that attendance in many churches was down for fear of the corona virus. Don’t get me wrong, some have a legitimate reason for isolation for health reasons. Most of us don’t. This is a tactic of the enemy to drive us into further isolation. The pulsating sprinkler of fear has been on overdrive the last couple of weeks. And it’s working, because we’re letting it. 

And the corona virus isn’t really to blame, and I’m not really even talking about church attendance. My thoughts about that are pretty clear. What I’m talking about is devotion. Devotion isn’t showing up at a service once a week when it’s convenient. The word for devotion in Acts 2:42 means “to be devoted or constant to…be steadfastly attentive unto, give unremitting care to, continue all the time in a place, to persevere and not to faint, show one’s self courageous for, be in constant readiness for.” 

The earliest manifestation of the body of Christ on the earth after God sent the Holy Spirit was absolute devotion to one another. This was the purest form of the church. This is what most pastors dream of for their churches. An unwavering devotion to one another, continuing in a place together, persevering through, being courageous for and constantly ready. 

This love for one another is supposed to be our testimony to the unbelieving world. Those are Jesus’ words not mine. We are supposed to love one another in a radically different way than the world loves. The world, that system that is opposed to God and is under the control of the devil is supposed to be able to look on us as disciples and see something completely, utterly and entirely different. 

But is love what they see? Sure, they may see a group of people who care and are kind. They will likely see people who want to give food to the hungry like we do at our church, give clothing and assistance wherever possible, pay off medical debts and give ridiculously generous tips to delivery drivers. All things our church and other churches have done. These things are good and they should be done. Jesus said in His sermon on the mount that people should see our good deeds and glorify the Father. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things. 

But what about how we love one another. Let’s say we do one of those things that gets the attention of the unbelieving world around us. What will they see when they look into our churches? Will they see a group of people who radically, self-sacrificially love one another in inexplicable ways. Or will they see a bunch of people who live and do life pretty much like they do? This is the primary difference that is supposed to exist in the church. This is how we’re supposed to be different. 

We aren’t just called to be different. We aren’t just commanded to be different. (Both of which are true. Jesus called us out of the darkness and into the light, Jesus commanded us to love one another.) The very nature of the love of God that is flowing through us is different. The nature of the love itself is not a taking love, it’s a giving love. Love that recklessly gives to brothers and sisters in Christ in time, resources, energy and life. It’s not a checklist. It’s not a duty that we perform. Love goes beyond performance to presence. 

The way we love one another should be so different that an unbeliever would want to get in on that love. We should love one another in such a way that when we have their attention and they look behind the curtain, what they see is even more ridiculously radical than what drew them there in the first place. 

That’s how Jesus loved us, that’s the love that Jesus wants to flow through us. Will we let it flow? 

%d bloggers like this: