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Love your neighbour

It’s raining again in London. Summer has been a wet one this year with brief moments of beautiful sunshine.

I was scrolling through my social media feed, when this image came up.

It made me pause and think. Are my actions speaking as loudly as the the faith I profess in Christ?

What about this one? Have you heard this quote? I came across it the other day while watching a documentary on Christian history.

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Gandhi (maybe)

It’s a famous quote attributed to Gandhi — one that he may or may not have said. But the sentiment is clear. Our actions as Christians matter. And the world is watching.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls us the light of the world. A town on a hill that cannot be hidden. A lamp lit for everyone in the house — not to be put under a bowl.

“In the same way,” He says, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We Christians have been saved for God’s glory and for good works He has prepared for us in advance to do.

I’m not sure about you, but I feel a lot of performance anxiety when I think about it too much.

How can I, someone flawed, selfish and self-centred, act in such a way to glorify the God who gave me life? I’m not sure I can. Not without some hypocrisy. And definitely, not without His divine intervention.

But then, the apostle Paul reminds us we are merely imperfect clay jars that hold something incredibly valuable. Treasure, he calls it. To show all surpassing power is from God.

So ultimately it’s not about me. It’s not about being perfect, or winning brownie points from God, or working my way into God’s good books so I can get to heaven. It’s about serving Him and doing the right thing as best we can, flaws and all. It’s about letting God’s light shine through our flaws.

It reminds me of these lines in Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Anthem, Leonard Cohen

Internet legend has it that Cohen, who rarely explained his music, made a statement about “Anthem”. Quartz states on their site that Cohen was reported to have said the following:

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

Not entirely sure what he meant…

But I’m taking home the idea that we’re flawed and that’s ok, because not only are we forgiven, but the God I love and follow is not flawed. And He is there in the brokenness of things.

You can see it throughout the Gospel. Jesus deliberately went to the imperfect, rejected, and the lost to shine His light — His message of hope, forgiveness and salvation found in Him.

And He asks us Christians to do the same. But I really don’t think it’s by relentlessly shoving the Good News down people’s throats until they can vomit out the right answers while their hearts are far away from Him.

I’m pretty certain most Christians will tell you faith doesn’t work that way.

Yes of course we share the hope we have. But Jesus also gave us two commands. To love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. He defined neighbours so broadly that it included not only our enemies, but God’s enemies as well.

At the heart of the Christian message is love. And I believe it is this love, shown so clearly by the Lord I follow, that can change the world.

This is not a passive hearts and flowers emotion. It’s an action.

The awesome 1 John 3 passage in the Bible says:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3: 16-18

Yes, we are imperfect. Yes, there will be times when we will fail — and fail spectacularly. But we also hold God’s light of love in our hearts.

Perhaps we need to let that shine as best we can in every aspect of our lives. So that a perishing and unbelieving world can look at what we do, how we care for one another, and glorify our Father in heaven.

Not because we’re perfect with our perfectly formed opinions. But because God loved us first and calls us to do the same.

I guess that’s a round about way of saying, it’s always raining somewhere. I’d better get ready to share my umbrella.

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August 2021
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