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Saturday, April 9, 2011

It makes a difference

1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
(Philippians 2:1-4)

We are always looking for the things in life that truly make a difference.  If we observe a product at the market that will make life easier - we buy it.  If we hear of a new tool that will remove the tightest of bolts - we put our faith in it.  If we come across a book that announces the quickest way to lose ten pounds - we shell out the money to learn how.  

The most hopeful of inventions and craziest of promises excite us and cause us to plunge head-long into believing they will make a difference.  Yet, when someone begins to speak to us about the love of God, we shut down.  We give excuses for why God could never love us because of what we have done, why his love doesn't matter to us because we are too busy with other things right now, or how his love is too hard for us to grasp because it is given even when it is not actively sought.  We miss the point of how deeply his love affects those he embraces - simply because we don't understand his unconditional love.

Paul proclaims that there is far more to living this life in Christ than simply trusting in him - there is an expectation that his life will have deeply impacted us in our relationship with each other.  Look at what he says:
  • Christ's love in our lives brings us into community - those of similar character and identity as us.  God uses "community" to accomplish so much in the way of growth in our lives.  We cannot escape the "value" of being related with others of similar character - those who share the identity of Christ in their lives.  Within community, we are challenged to face our real self, move beyond the mundane, and to come into new areas of growth.  That is what love does - it moves us.  It is not content to see us "unaffected" by its presence - love wants to see a response.  God places us in community to give us ample chance to see the response of others to the love of God - learning from their examples.
  • Through his love, we can learn how to agree with each other - we are not talking "world peace" here, but an ability to view another as a valuable part of God's creation.  His love in our lives is meant to be reproduced in the lives of others.  Love that is modeled is able to affect another deeper than love that is merely in words.  Agreement is really making a way for the individuality of each person something we accept instead of a stumbling block we get tripped up on all the time.  We don't focus so much on socioeconomic status, the color of our skin, or the level of education one achieved.  We focus instead on what we have in common - the love of Christ.
  • His love is what helps us maintain proper perspective of our own worth - we are valuable citizens of his kingdom, but are not more highly valued than our fellow brother or sister.  When his love guides our actions, we do less "fronting" of our own worth and more "elevating" of the worth of another.  This adds to the agreement of community.
Paul reminds us that when God's love is given its proper perspective in our lives, it affects the community in which we live.  His love is no "fad" that promises one thing, but sadly disappoints.  In fact, his promises are true, perfectly orchestrated to meet each need of our heart, and are a solid foundation for us to place our trust in.  His love is no "fast fix" to life's woes, but it is a consistent "fix".  Nothing is more consistent than his love - nothing conveys consistency in our lives more than his love manifested in us.