Paul writes in his letter to the early church in Rome, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race” (9:3) This was mentioned in class today, in example of just how important it was to expand and increase the knowledge of the Love of God in the communities we love. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved a church I’ve served that much!”, was said with a smile to many nods in the crowd. As much as I’ve loved the Church, and the church I’ve served at – I don’t think I would ever elevate them above my love for Jesus. I don’t think Paul was either, but was rather making an emotional appeal to explain just how passionate he was to see his fellow countrymen knowing the Love of God.
But being in “Church History” lectures all of this week, I can’t help but think about the history of God’s people seeming to put other seemingly good things ahead of the Love of Jesus throughout thousands of years.
Each time I’ve driven between my hotel and seminary, I’ve noticed new things like a kid who is somewhere they’ve never been before. I’ve driven past a large national cemetery, with it’s rows of white grave markers. I’ve driven past a large Finnish paper products plant, that I should probably purchase stock in for the sake of my family’s use of paper plates. But two places I’ve noticed on each drive seem to stand out in their contrast and commonality with one another: A small local donut shop that closes when they sell out late each morning, and a large commercial bakery with loading docks and trucks lined up to a giant warehouse building.
Both of these endeavors could be labeled “successful”. It would seem silly for someone to approach the small local shop and prod them: “Don’t you care about sharing donut goodness?” “Don’t you want the masses to enjoy the same donuts you’ve enjoyed?” “See the bakery down the street? Surely they have a truer passion for donuts!”
Yet so often throughout history this same mentality has crept into the church. We take the “Great Commission” not as a direction to live and love, but as a mandate to succeed at with all the resources and power we can amass. So we divide and conquer. We establish. We claim. We protect. All in the name of a Jesus who came to die. To give away. To release. To submit to the will of the Father.
Yes – I love Jesus. Yes, I want the people in the community I love to know the freedom and New Life offered in receiving His Love and Hope by Faith. It has transformed my life, and continues to even as I don’t deserve it. I’m sure the giant bakery I drive by is run by great people who truly love their baked goods. But I suppose what I’m saying is – it’s really good for us to remember our love for Jesus above our love for everything – even the church. That may lead to heresy. But it might just lead to some amazing donuts as well…
..and what might happen if, the church continued to be filled with and sending out people of all ages and every background who were passionate in sharing their love of donuts? We may not even need the trucks. 😉