You Cares?

What is the greatest danger as our faith grows? As we supplement faith with all the wonderful traits Peter lists in 2 Peter 1:5-7?

The greatest danger is the one described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: that we could do great works that look like love, but have no love in them. That we sing and give and serve, but without love.

We can do good things without love, but then they’re not good. So what’s the greatest danger as we grow as disciples? That our care for others will evaporate.

Evaporation is what happens when an external heat source is applied in a gentle but persistent way to a moist object or surface. This is a pretty good metaphor for being involved in discipleship, ministry, and the life of a local church. I’ve seen this happen many times—I’ve felt it many times. It goes like this…

First, you get excited about Jesus. You delight in the Gospel; you’re happy about Jesus. So you take some relationship-risks. You start to serve in your church. You pray for and invest in a few relationships.
Second, things don’t go the way (you think) they should. People don’t grow or change (like you think they should). And you are not appreciated. So you get frustrated.
Third, you begin to run diagnostics. Is it me? Praying enough? Loving enough? Patient enough? Certainly not. So you head back in, smarter, stronger, cooler. But it still happens. You get frustrated with them. And you get frustrated with you.
Meanwhile, fourth, something is growing: frustration with God. Why isn’t He changing them? Why isn’t He blessing you? Why isn’t He making you the perfect person to reach them? And as the cycle repeats, this bitter dot of darkness grows.
You are faithful, virtuous, self-controlled, steadfast, and pious. But these ungrateful wretches! We still go through the motions for a while; we stay in the work, being “godly.” And then, one day, we’re empty and we walk away and everyone’s like “why?” and we’re like…
Be careful to supplement your faith with affection, care and concern, for your brothers and sisters in Christ. How do we do that?

One way to do that is to switch churches (or ministries) every so often. That way you go from honeymoon to honeymoon and never have to really get to know anyone. People are so easy to love…when you don’t know them. (But is that real love? With no real knowledge?)

Here’s a better way: don’t depend on their loveability, depend on God’s heart. The best—the only—way to sustain a heart of love for our neighbors is to nurture a heart of love for God. 

Love God with all your heart, and then loving the people He loves won’t be so hard. for example, when you meet my friends, you might not care for them, if you didn’t know they were my friends. But if you get to know me and see how I see them, you’ll understand why I care for them. Or not, but if you’re my friend, then you’ll care for them anyway, for my sake.

So keep a close watch on your relationship with God. Don’t let the little dark dot grow. Remember, we can only love because He first loved us. Remember anything done without love is no good.

Who do you care about? Your immediate family? Extended family? Friends? People you read about in magazines and learn about in infomercials? (That is, either people you already have a good relationship with, or people you don’t ever have to have a relationship with.)

Or do you care about your neighbors. Your actual ones. They’re even weirder than you were afraid they'd be! How about your fellow church members? Like Bilbo Baggins said, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” A little goes a long way, am I right? These are people who you probably don’t have a good relationship with and if you start one up, you’ll have to keep an eye on it. 

If you have neither interest nor energy for such things, it could be one of a few things. First, it could be that your affections are out of order—if you don’t care for your church family, don’t pretend to care for your distant uncle or those distant orphans; that’s probably just a posture (“virtue signaling”). Second, it could be that your cup is full—you’re invested in who God has called you to: your immediate family, church, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Third, it could be that the dark star is vacuuming up your soul with grief unconfessed—you need to reconnect with God, have a good soul cleansing cry and reboot.

When faith grows dull, care dies out. Where faith burns hot, affections are brimming. Faith’s journey toward love is full of snags—people, mostly. This is a real problem and probably at work in most of our hearts to some extent. The only solution—as per usual—is the love of God in Christ. Only staying satiated with His love, learning to trust His heart, can prepare us for the long dry spells of discipleship and community. Only His love can keep our loves fresh. Only His love can keep our leaky love-buckets filled. Love the love of Christ, and apply it to your soul today.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
To Consider and Discuss:
What's your "care-energy" like?
What drains your spirit? What fills it?
What does Jesus want you to put more of your heart on?
What does Jesus want to give you to help you with that?

Photo by Dominik Martin  on Unsplash