Christian ministry is aimed at spreading the good word about Jesus Christ to the world. Christians want to tell the world that Jesus Christ was and is the son of God, and he has offered us eternal life in heaven with him if we accept him as our personal Lord and savior. This idea is very exciting for Christians, but we all know that the communication of this idea can be misconstrued, lost in translation or handled inappropriately. If this idea is communicated without any respect for how important love is to it, it will mean nothing. The most critcal point in all of Christianity is that God has endless, unconditional love for us, and Christians therefore must have endless, unconditional love for all people.
The reason this point cannot be overlooked is because it is where all the reward lies in being a Chrisitian. Love is something we all want more of in this world that often seems to have it in short supply. Knowing that God is present and that his love for us is never ending is the best news that any of us can receive. We may sometimes think that money, recognition and beauty are what we want in life, but love is the thing that we crave more than anything else. A God that gives us all the love we could ever ask for is a God that gives us the truest desires of our heart.
Therefore, living a life of love that exemplifies the love of Christ is certainly the best way to show people how profound the love of Christ is. A person can talk until they are blue in the face, but being a living example of love and loving other people actively is by far the best form of ministry there is. Christians who are ever in doubt about how to reach someone should go straight to love, because we were created to communicate through love.
One of the secular world’s most common complaints about Christianity is that hypocrisy exists within it. It is not unheard of for a church to mismanage money and hord it, rather than giving it back to the community. Christians preach love, generosity and forgiveness, but many of them practice exclusivity, stinginess and judgment. Peace is a primary moral within Christian beliefs, but many wars have been fought in the name of Christianity. Things like these are what offend the secular world because it demonstrates Christian culture misrepresenting itself.
Firstly, it should be pointed out that the church is not an original seat of hypocrisy. There is as much hypocrisy observed within the church as there is in every other institution. Companies that raise funds for people or animals in need are frequently caught pocketing large sums of donated money. Companies that harvest natural resources do so claiming that the resources will be put to use to make life easier for humanity, but what they are actually doing is toxifying the planet. Labs that conduct scientific research can be bribed into skewing their findings in favor of one direction or another. A passage in the bible states, “Let him with no sin cast the first stone,” which can easily be applied to the secular world accusing the Christian world of hypocrisy.
Having said that, it is important for Christians to recognize that the whole point of Christianity is being good to your fellow man. When asked what the most important lessons of faith to remember are, Jesus replied, “Love your God and love one another.” The purpose of church and bible studies and worship music and prayer and every other component of Chrisianity is love and decency. If you call yourself a Christian, living these virtues is not optional. They are commandments given to us directly from our savior and they are the foundation of our entire spiritual identities.
When one of Jesus’ disciples asked him what the most important of all God’s commandments was, he replied, “Love thy God and thy neighbor.” Jesus was someone who chose his words carefully because he knew they would be recorded for all of time. This is a very clear and deliberate statement. Jesus is telling the many generations spanning across the globe that would read his words how love trumps the rest of life in importance. He is calling people to get the idea and the practice of love right, even if they get nothing else in life right.
Jesus would not have said this if love were not truly the most important facet of life. Our modern scientific evidence supports this in its findings. Hugs and physical affection have been scientifically linked to good health, while fear and anger have been scientifically linked to a compromised immune system and disease. We need love like we need food and medicine. And yet it is so seldom prioritized like it should be. We feel pressured to be productive more than we feel responsible to give love and more than we feel entitled to receive love.
It is so important that we reevaluate our behavior. Love is the ultimate thing we cannot quantify, yet we cannot afford to have disbelief in. Love heals us when we are down. Love illuminates our path when we are lost. Love brings out the best in us. Love is our deepest calling and our deepest desire. The amazing thing is, we can replace the word “love” with the word “God” and all of these statements will still be true. We need a relationship with God to be complete because human love will fail us from time to time. God is the embodiment of perfection and is capable of loving us with perfect consistency. We are meant to share love with people and with God. If all of humanity would embrace this concept, it would be unbreakable.
Recent medical studies indicate that adverse experiences, especially in children, are linked to disease and life expectancy. Children of broken homes, divorced parents, domestic violence households or substance abusing parents are far more likely to have physical health issues than those who grew up in a stable environment. Broken hearts literally destroy lives. However, people are capable of healing themselves by seeking what they need the most, which is love. Therapy for a broken heart is all around us, if we know where to look.
The first thing that most people do in order to recover is retreat. Most people who have reason to reject their upbringing cannot separate themselves from the trauma of their past unless they remove themselves from it radically. This often involves physically relocating far from the figures of their past, even if just temporarily. While this initial separation is beneficial and therapeutic, it is hardly a sustainable resolution. When an individual separates from the toxic people in their lives, it prevents those people from inflicting further harm upon them. It does not, however, correct the person’s own broken thought patterns and feelings. This is where love becomes an essential.
We often think of broken people as needing a lot of counseling, which is ironic because, even though broken people should receive counseling, the foremost need of a hurting person is relationship. The brain and the heart work together in many ways, but they are essentially different and the heart has a huge say in what the person believes. The brain is the seat of intelligence, but emotion overwhelms intelligence. That is to say, our emotional faculties have a bigger influence over us than our intellectual faculties because feelings set the tone for even the most objective thinking that we are capable of. Get the heart right, and the head will follow.
The importance of love in our lives cannot be overstated. Love has the power to calm the storms of the heart that form our identities. If you are aware that you have a long road of recovery ahead of you, seek a loving support system before you do anything else.
The word “love” is used lightly these days as a euphemism. We say things like, “I love this hamburger,” or “I love this sweater” even though we know it is an incorrect use of the term. Sadly, even when we speak the word “love” to another person, it is often an abuse of the term. People tell each other they love one another without meaning it or even understanding it. This is not what God intended when he commanded us to love one another. In the bible, when the word “love” is used, it is used in a very specific sense.
The original Greek word used to mean “love” is “agape.” There were several levels of love defined in the bible, ranging from romantic love to fondness, but when Christ speaks about how we are meant to love one another, he uses the word “agape.” This word is translated to refer to selfless, altruistic love. This kind of love involves putting another person before one’s self for their benefit. This is the kind of love we all yearn for at our deepest level, but because we leave in a culture that encourages self worship and focus, it is often lost to us.
Going through life without ever knowing “agape” personally is tragic. God intended selfless love to be a gift for everyone to receive, directly from him and between one another. It was meant to get us through heartache and misfortune, as well as be a staple in every day life. The good news is, we are still free to give and receive real, selfless love whenever we make the choice to. God is calling every one of us to open our hearts to him so that we can receive the most perfect love we have ever experienced. When we allow ourselves to feel the reality of God’s love, goodness and grace, we achieve the capacity to love others in the same way.
As Christians, we are commanded to be compassionate in the world, yet so many of us find it hard to accept people who are different than we are. There are many Christians who only feel comfortable within Christian culture, and are offended when they encounter the ways of the world. While this logic is common to human behavior in general, it is backwards to God’s sacred commands of how to walk in Christ’s footsteps.
Consider this story about the origins of the title “Christian.” During the first century A.D., after Christ had left his disciples to carry on his work, Christianity spread to the ancient Greek city of Antioch, a major city and trade hub of the time. Up until the time of Christ, it was common practice to essentially throw people in the street if they were mentally or physically ill, lest they affect the rest of their household. Christ was the first one to run to the aid of people who were afflicted with a condition, and his followers brought this philosophy to Antioch. When the Greeks saw Christ’s followers caring for the sick and the hurting, they were so unfamiliar with compassionate behavior that they had to create a term for it, which translates literally into “Christ ones.” This is where the title “Christians” comes from.
Christ showed us that we should be compassionate, not only to fellow Christians, but to a hurting world. God does not request, but commands us to show love to addicts, diseased, mentally ill, homeless, depressed, anxious, disadvantaged and lost persons. We are not to place judgment on those who are different from us, but rather we are to form relationships, give aid and offer kindness and patience.