Sympathy says, "I'm sorry." Compassion says, "I'll help."
|What Is The Message?
A God of Love or Wrath?
By Marilyn Mackenzie
...Before you ask, I have attended many kinds of Christian churches. My favorite church is one where God's presence is obvious and God's word is preached. That can be one of any denomination or non-denominational.
Something came to me yesterday, after reading Charisma Magazine. Iâ€™ve once again subscribed to a few Christian magazines. Iâ€™ve been reading my Bible on a daily basis, but I realized Iâ€™d been neglecting reading the works of other Christians. Having these magazines exposes me to some other writers. It also details some of whatâ€™s happening in the world around us, from a Christian viewpoint. I cannot continue ignoring these things. A writer cannot write well without reading the works of others!
I think churches, mainline and Spirit-filled alike, are preaching a fractured and incomplete message.
Yes, Iâ€™ve included the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in my suggestion that a partial message is being shared. I think these churches, rightfully worried about times that are upon us and times to come are preaching a message of whatâ€™s at the end of the story.
Doom and gloom are definitely a part of that message, and one that should be shared. Each generation has thought that the Second Coming of Christ was near, for each generation has experienced persecution, natureâ€™s torment, and disease.
Our times are worse than others have been, I think. We have more violence, more exposure to sex, more of natureâ€™s wrath, more disease than other generations. At least, it appears that we do, since we have access to news around the world. Those are all signs to those of us who are Christian, that we must share the message of Christ with those around us before it is too late.
But what should that message be? I think one reason why the world looks upon some Christians as being crazy and fanatical is that they start with the end of the story. Even in sharing novels and movies, starting at the end would bring raised eyebrows and disbelief. How could it possibly end like that? Only by sharing the beginning and the middle of the story, would the ending make any sense. And so it is, I think, with the message of our Lord.
Many churches focus on a method of worship that will probably be similar to how we worship in Heaven â€“ with hands raised, drinking in His presence, speaking in the language of Heaven. I wonder if the seeker or new Christian worshiper is entirely comfortable with this? Having never experienced the message of Christ in its entirety, is this worshiper ready for being in His presence this way? Perhaps not.
Some churches are guilty of preaching a message solely of Godâ€™s love, the beginning of the story. Without being exposed to the middle and the ending stories, itâ€™s easy to see how, to some, God often becomes a God of inclusion.
The fact that Jesus said, "I am THE WAYâ€¦" gets lost in the message of Godâ€™s love. Gone too is the reality that when the Bible tells us that if we do something and can expect a certain result, the opposite message is also true. If we donâ€™t do something, we can expect the opposite result.
Itâ€™s no wonder this way of thinking has been lost on us. The media has made it unimportant to think. We just need to watch TV shows, movies, game screens and computer screens. We donâ€™t need to think or participate. And logical thinking, the need to understand that Bible verses that tell us that certain things will happen if we act thusly, also mean that opposite things will occur if we donâ€™t act that way, have been lost to many.
Whatâ€™s lost to all of us, whether we attend churches which preach about a God of love, or churches whose message is about end times, is the middle of the story.
The middle part is, to me, the most important part of all. Itâ€™s the part that tells us that if we love God, we will read His word, we will digest His word, and we will want to share what weâ€™ve learned and discovered. If we love a real human person, really love him, donâ€™t we want to shout it to the world? So it should be if we love the Lord Jesus.
The middle part of the story is the part that tells us that if we are, indeed, followers of Jesus, that the results will be that we love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor means we will want him to know the Lord Jesus. Would you look at that? Loving God means weâ€™ll want to tell everyone about Him. Loving our neighbor means weâ€™ll want our neighbor to know about our awesome God.
Where is the proof that we are Christian? Itâ€™s in the sharing of the Good News. We cannot be afraid of what others might think if we share this message. If we love God and our neighbor, the logical results will be in sharing.
Sharing Godâ€™s messages, though, may be done in different ways, for although we are all children of the King, we are all unique, individuals created by an awesome God. Weâ€™ve each also received different gifts from God, and developed other earthly talents that will allow us to spread the Good News.
Some may be called to preach or teach. Some may be called to prophesy. The Bible lists many gifts, which we are to share within the Body of Christ. But out in the world, we are all called to share the Good News in whatever way that we can. Our actions speak louder than words ever could, and thatâ€™s where each and every Christian must remember that the message is being shared even when they least realize it.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) tells us that, "â€¦the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Loving God, wanting the world to come to know and love Him too, having Godâ€™s Spirit as a part of us, will mean that these qualities are shining through on a daily and regular basis.
It means weâ€™ll notice when our neighbor needs a helping hand, and weâ€™ll respond, not just by offering to pray for him, but by actually helping him with our own resources, if necessary. In doing so, weâ€™ll be showing kindness and goodness, which are a part of us. Sympathy sees and says, "I'm sorry." Compassion sees and says, "I'll help."
Exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is not something that comes naturally to us. We need daily strengthening, constant communication with God to be able to be unselfish, to show unconditional love to those around us. We need refreshed and fed and filled, sometimes minute by minute. No wonder Paul told us to pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
We certainly need constant refreshing in order to be able to show peace in our trials, or joy in our pains. But by having and exhibiting such behaviors, this fruit may be just the "food" our neighbor needs to be introduced to the God we love. Watching us as we suffer through illness or loss, our neighbor may be intrigued and want to tap into whatever source gives us strength, peace and joy in times of pain.
The beginning of the story, the love that that God showed us by sending his only Son to die for our sin, is certainly a message that must be shared. The ending of the story, what will happen to our world because we have not come to know and love Him, is also a message that must not be forgotten.
But the middle, the fact that each of us is called into ministry, and that each one of us must share with our friends, our families and our neighbors by our words and by our actions, is also important. To me, thatâ€™s the most important message of all. Godâ€™s love is not to be held in my heart or my hand. Itâ€™s to be spread around my neighborhood, my workplace, the world, by whatever means I have available.
Often times, my actions are my only opportunity to share the message of God. Non-believers regularly observe how I react to traffic or to lines in the grocery store. What is the message Iâ€™m preaching?
What message am I sharing when I offer merely to pray for someone, but donâ€™t offer to help financially or even emotionally?
Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20 NIV
How have I obeyed this directive today?