With the second lockdown just days away, I have been shocked to hear that the broken record of the first lockdown has not yet been replaced.
'We’re asked to close our doors for the sake of loving our neighbours.'
Just do what is loving. Not following this is to deny God's call to love our neighbour. We aren't being persecuted.
There is so much anger and hatred for those who disagree and will not follow the the authority of the government. The social pressure to conform with what the government is ruling, the hostility and ill-treatment for holding these religious beliefs that to keep churches open, is by definition persecution!
Persecution, noun, hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs
Just because people are not yet being killed for their faith doesn't negate the fact that there is persecution for those who do not tow the mainstream religious line. I am amazed at the blatent hypocrisy of calling Christians to love our neighbours and then attacking those Christians who disagree with how that is to be done. Who is our neighbour? Apparently not those who disagree with us.
But that aside, the mindset that worries me is the ultimate standard of righteousness being measured by the appearance of loving our neighbours. For the covid-concious church, 'love your neighbour' has become the greatest commandment.
We all know the passage that is being referred to. Mark 12; '“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
In contrast to Jesus' own ordering of our priorities, the message of the church is, 'you don't love God if you don't love your neighbour.' The counter-cultural message of the gospel subverts this. We can only love our neighbour because of our priority of loving God first. God is love. If we want to love our neighbour, we must first look to God to know what love even is!
This comes down to the age-old question for humanity- what is first, Creator or creation? We cannot love neighbour first, for that places creation before the One who made all things and falls straight into idolatry.
Before there was any neighbour to love, God was love. In community of Father, Spirit, Son, God is love because within Himself there is this beautiful dance of loving between the three persons of the One God.
But because we can not fully comprehend what that love is, He demonstrates to us what it is; 'This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.' (1 John 4:10). Firstly, note the ordering of love. It is not humanity reaching upward to God- it is not neighbour then God. It is God stooping down to extend His love to us- God then neighbour. This self-sacrificing demonstration of love, an outpouring of oneself for someone else, defines what love looks like to us.
Mark describes the gospel as the good news of Jesus. As we saw, that good news is Christ's demonstration of love, and therefore, the gospel is a message of love. The saving grace of God to His creation. It does not dismiss the righteous anger of a holy God in the face of our sin, but it does reveal the depths to which He will go to bring us back into relationship with Him.
Of course, if the church's priority is to love our neighbours, then please do close your doors! By all means, 'love' your neighbour in this way, but what is loving about abandoning relational beings made in God's image to isolation, fear and hopelessness? Love is an inter-personal activity, so how can we love by isolation? Love is a personal being, so how can we love if we are not inviting people into relationship with the One who is love?
The gospel message is the greatest love story, and the most loving word we can give. The Sovereign God is in control, which means He is also in control of the virus. In His love He is shaking the nations and calling the whole earth to repent. As Intercessors for Britain put it, 'God was speaking powerfully in judgement, when even the churches were closed down across this nation.'
Rather than endorsing the closure of the churches, rather than moving self-righteously online, should we not be examining ourselves before God? Should we not be refocussing our eyes on God, repenting of when we have not submitted ourselves to Him and His word? If we truely love God, we will obey His word to place Him first. And if we truely love our neighbour, we won't hide what God has entrusted to us, the message of the gospel of His love. Let us boldly proclaim the God who is love, not by hoping people will click on our video, but by meeting the people in their need.
'The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.'
Wake up church! Jesus went to the leper communities, he didn't isolate to protect potentially vulnerable people! Let God direct your love for your neighbour, not the virtue signalling culture. Honour God first- without the Light of the World, what light are we supposed to reflect to the world?