Monday, February 28, 2011

Whom Do You Love?

This is a post of questions. Questions for me, questions for you.

I first read and signed onto The Lausanne Covenant in the early 1990's. The 1974 statement of faith and purpose had been composed largely by the British theologian John Stott and it had became a standard for mission-minded evangelicals worldwide. Affirming it was a condition of joining the ministry I served with for so many years. We all agreed to the Lausanne Covenant, and we agreed we'd be willing to work with anyone else who said the same.

The Lausanne Movement chose the occasion of its largest meeting yet to commission a new document that, much like the previous one, attempts "to bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching - in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas."

The Capetown Commitment seems to go further down the road from statement of faith or systematic theology to a call to a common mission. It frames the entire conversation in the bonds of love. The commitment, it's a commitment to love.

How uncomfortable. How challenging. How right.

Are we willing to hear and see what it looks like to really love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

I'm not sure I know how to love. I find a war within myself, a longing to love and be loved at odds with a deep-rooted suspicion that it's better not to. I'm made to connect with others; I've been trained to keep others at arm's length. Which one will win out?

Remember the story of the good Samaritan? My friend Laura recently wrote about attending a gathering of diverse women that took place in the land where Jesus first told that story. "In Jesus' teaching the answer to the question 'who is my neighbor,'" she says, "was essentially another question: 'Whose neighbor are you?'"

Another friend suggests that the original hearers of that story would have considered as neighbors anyone who lived within a day or two's journey of them. Were we to apply the same standard today, the whole earth would be one neighborhood. Do you believe that it is? Why or why not?

Globalized communication mean we may hear, instantly and incessantly, about situations and struggles in far more and further-flung places than we can touch through anything except perhaps our prayers. Human nature pressures us to stop our ears, to close our eyes, to disengage. How do you choose to respond? I mean, how do you choose when to respond, and when not to?

Whose neighbor are you?
We Love Because God First Loved Us

"The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God's people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves. World evangelization is the outflow of God's love to us and through us. We affirm the primacy of God's grace and we then respond to that grace by faith, demonstrated through the obedience of love. We love because God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

Source: The Cape Town Commitment
This post is part of the Christian Writer's Blog Chain, which chose for its February theme, "love."


Debra Ann Elliott said...

Great reminder

Victor Travison said...

There are so many covenants out there, different wording perhaps, but all valid. My church relies on the Nicene Creed, a pithier declaration of faith, yet just as valid.

Thank you for a great post, Marti.

~ VT

TraciB said...

Excellent post, Marti. You've posed some questions I think we all ask ourselves, or at least we should be.

I hadn't heard of the Lausanne Covenant or the Cape Town Commitment, but I'll be reading both of them. Thanks for the boost in my spiritual education. :)

E. G. Lewis said...

Have to admit, I remain skeptical.
Though well-meaning, I worry that covenants encourage people to feel good about themselves because they signed a piece of paper. What we need are more people like Mother Teresa who see a problem and set about fixing it. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
Peace and Blessings

Sheila said...

Yes, it's a dilemma. As a Christian I would like to respond to all people with the same amount of love--but that would drain my energy and ruin my health. I suppose I choose based on my reaction to the person--and it may not always be the correct choice and it may lead to heartbreak when our love is rejected. But I believe even when we do not see a tangible result, our love still influences others--perhaps not until years later. This is becoming long, but let me give you an example. I supported and loved my brothers stepchildren for years, taking them to church with me, teaching them, etc. My brother divorced his wife and I did not see the kids for years. The boy was arrested for theft and drug use. After he got out of jail, he came by to see me, ten years since I had last seen him, and told me he appreciated all the love I had shown him. I think he is now trying to get right with God. So, you just never know. We just have to do the best we can. But, yes, with the internet and the ability to reach so many, everyone is our neighbor. That's why it's important that everyone in God's kingdom works--we have such a great opportunity!

John said...

You ask some great questions for self-examination in your post.

For me, my resources are very small, but I do help others who I come into contact with when I can.

Chris Perdue said...

(Oops. Someone else also uses this computer (John), and I did not realize it would log in under his name, and wasn't paying attention.)

You ask some great questions for self-examination in your post.

For me, my resources are very small, but I do help others who I come into contact with when I can.

Marti said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by, all!

Victor: I love the Nicene creed, too!

E.G.: Good points. If fine words obscure a lack of follow-through, we do, indeed, deceive ourselves.

I don't know about you but I have a hard time believing things are real until they are documented - so things like a list of goals, a statement of faith, or signing a commitment tend to motivate me to greater action. But I've seen the opposite at play, too. Around new year's I read something about -not- making resolutions or telling other people like they were because that would create enough sense of accomplishment that it might be all you do toward actually achieving those goals. Sobering. Our hearts can be so deceptive.

Tracy Krauss said...

Interesting. I had never heard of any of these documents that you referred to

Anonymous said...

Excellent questions, Marti! Who is our neighbor? What does it mean to love as God loves? Yet imperative questions as we learn to live out our faith here on earth. Thank you for a wonderfully contemplative way to start my day!

God Bless!

Adam Collings said...

You're right, love is the motivation behind evangelism. Love for God motivates us to obey his commandto make disciples, and love for people motivates us to want to share God's love with them.

I think that if a document, creed, or mission statement inspires somebody to make a difference then it is a good thing. If it is just words that don't make a difference then it hasn't achieved much.