Thursday, February 07, 2008

Are you Lovable?

The American theologian and bible exegete, Ellen Gould White, writes: “No other influence that can surround the human soul has such power as the influence of an unselfish life. The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.”

Lovable Christian?

Jesus says the mark of a growing disciple is lovability (John 13:35). The first fruit of the Spirit is lovability (Galatians 5:22). God is, above all, lovable (1 John 4:16).

In a recent Barna survey, just 16% of non-Christians said Christians “consistently show love.” More than 8 of 10 would not say that followers of Jesus are lovable.

Contemporary Franciscan Richard Rohr observes:“[R]eligion has always distinguished education from transformation. Being informed is different from being formed, and the first is a common substitute for the second.”

Could it be that more colorful brochures, slicker sermon presentations, more “relevant” worship services, and better (doctrinally) informed church members won’t amount to much GC (great commission) success? Perhaps we need to be formed, not informed. Perhaps we need to move the 16% figure to 96%. Perhaps we need to go ahead and believe the words of our New Testament, "You can give your body to be burned, but if you are not lovable, this amounts to nothing."Perhaps we need to stop arguing—for God’s sake, and the sake of people—and, instead, become the strongest argument in the gospel’s favor.

What do you think?


  1. I totally agree that we need to be more loving Christians... Jesus Himself said love would be the key identifier as to whether or not a person is a disciple (John 13:35).

    I would, however, take the survey with a grain of salt. I wonder, how many people in general would the survey takers say "consistently show love." It would be interesting to have that percentage in comparison.

    Its like one of my professors once said... a lot of people complain that there are many non-Christians who are nicer than Christians, but it isn't about whether or not Christians are nicer than other people, but whether or not they are nicer now that they have Christ in their life. Am I a better person as a Christian than if I wasn't one.

    Of course, the sad thing is that some people become less loving when they become Christians. That's definitely a problem.

    Regardless, we all have room to grow in love.

  2. I like what you say, Alex, but I'm not sure what to do about it. How do I personally use my resources (time and money) to love outside of my family, my work, and my church community? I desire to express that love, but I'm mostly still trying to find out where to do it.

  3. Thanks for starting your post with EGW's famous quote. You've shown that you are not necessarily bound to a certain groupthink when it comes to God's messengers.

    Yes, being lovable is the ultimate trait of a Christian and for me the ultimate CHALLENGE; it's not something I'm prone to, even on my good days!!

    Will God forgive me if I'm more on the introvert, intellectual side than the people-person, affable guy side??

  4. Andre,
    I have been an introvert too; very shy as a young adult. But that didn't make me unlovable; and I was and am able to love others. It's just a different personality type. One thing I learned is to see things from another's viewpoint and treat them as you would like to be treated. I think that is what makes one lovable. I still have to work at not being an offensive debater but that doesn't mean I don't "love" the other person or respect them.
    I really can't think of anyone I don't like as a person.
    Ella M

  5. Andre,
    I'll bet you've struggled with that "Christians must always be hyper friendly, cheeful, and smiling" concept. So have I--especially as a young adult I was very shy--an introvert. But introverts can be lovable too--it's just a personality type.
    What makes people lovable is the ability to listen; to treat others they way they would like to be treated. I admit I still struggle with being careful in debates; but that doesn't mean I don't "love" the person I disagree with. Actually I can't think of anyone I don't like as a person.

  6. What a great post! Thanks for talking about the great commission which is to spread the good news that God is love! We forget that the message of Christ is one that uplifts all.

    From reading through the comments it is interesting to note that we don't really understand God's love. Love is not chocolate and roses, and smiling faces, although we love those things. Love is from God and is unnatural to our unredeemed hearts. When Paul speaks of circumcising our hearts, he is referring to our need to have a transformation at the heart level, not just on the surface level.

    God doesn't want to just spruce us up as Christians, God wants us to be reborn, completely remade after the model of Christ. The only way this happens is through Christ dwelling in the heart. Paul assures us that when this happens we become new creatures.

    This is difficult for us to understand because we have spent more time educating and debating than we have learning to be disciples of Christ. The stories of the apostles give us some idea as to the struggle they had in grasping the mission of Christ and then allowing the Spirit to then transform them.

    The story of Nicodemus is one that if we would take and contemplate the deeper meaning of it we would get a glimpse into the role of the Holy Spirit in making us instruments of God's love.

    We will never become true lovers of all until we have totally fallen in love with God ourselves. It is by a daily walk with God, asking to be filled with the love of God, that we are able to put aside our own interests and see what others might need. For this is the true definition of love and that is service to others and a life given over to the interests of God's Spirit.

    When you realize this it is not difficult to understand that many who call themselves Christians are not really disciples of Christ but curious followers. This is not to condemn this but that we should understand there is a difference between being transformed and merely believing--they are different stages along the journey.

    My prayer as a Christian is to become a deeper vessel for God's Spirit and to let that Spirit transform me into an agent for loving good in this world.

  7. The last time I went to church, almost 1.5 years ago, I ended up on the hallway floor with my 6 year old autistic son and my 2 year old, both tantrumming. I was unable to help either of my children control their frustration, and they just completely lost it. I looked up to see 5 of the other moms staring at me with frowns on their faces. Their disgust was overwhelming. It was at that moment I knew there was no love in the church for us.

    For the previous 7 months not one person said a kind word to us. Not one time did even one person return my numerous calls for fellowship and play dates, even though I had left up to 10 messages with 8 different mothers my kids had gone to Sabbath School with for the preceding 6 years. I had delivered half of their children, shared many joys and sorrows with them and made house calls when needed. And yet, when I and my family needed love and fellowship and help the most, in our struggle to give my son the skills that he needs to learn, not one person was willing.

    It has nothing to do with personality. It has everything to do with being filled with the Holy Spirit because of the gift given to us by Jesus. When we accept Jesus, he can radically alter our perspectives to see those in need in our church and in our community. It has everything to do with opening your eyes to the needs of other right under your noses and stepping up to the plate and asking if we can help in any way.

    It is your time people can use. Just a simple, "hey, I see you might be having a hard day here, how can I help you?" is all I would have liked that day I was sitting on the floor trying to figure out how to get the kids out to the car. Or someone to have said, "yes, I can help watch the kids while you go get that cardiac treadmill test done to rule out a heart attack" instead of hearing 6 people say no, canceling the appointment and ending up in the ER with no one willing to help with the kids in an emergency.

    Love means taking action, going out of your way to help others. It isn't about arguing about historical versus progressive Adventism.

    The next time you go to church, look around you. Who are the people who are struggling? Who are the ones who have chronic health care problems or children with medical or developmental problems? Who are the ones standing by the walls that no one is talking to? Who is having a difficult time walking or getting to church? Who has disabilities? Who is infirm and may need a ride to church or someone to walk with them to church?

    Love is action and acceptance. I like to think if Jesus was there that day, he would have smiled come up to a completely worn out mom and said, "How can I help you?"

    If I had been shown anything like this, I wouldn't have left the church.

  8. Wow, Karen--you've hit the nail on the head. Some of my deepest pains have come from the indifference of people who bore the name of Christ, but did not act like it and whom I felt judged by during my darkest times. My heartfelt understanding goes out to you.

    You have described love perfectly. We all need new hearts to feel the pain of others and new eyes to see what needs to be done. We are here to be the hands of feet of God.

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