The young man’s expression was confident as he approached. Tucked under his arm were the folders and books he needed for his next lecture at the university where he was attending. It was also where a number of us had gathered for street meetings. As he pulled his ear buds out, he courteously extended his hand, and with a slight grin he said, “I understand you are Christian?”
I replied, “Yes, I am a Christian, “Are you”?”
His bold reply was that he is agnostic or possibly an atheist. He quickly went on to say that he had grown up in a Christian home and no longer believes that the Bible is true because it does not agree with scientific evidence. The conversation then entered into a friendly debate about many different evidences for my belief in the Bible, and his belief that science and evolution best give the critical evidence of origins.
The world is looking for critical evidence! What is the critical evidence that proves the Bible and the gospel of Jesus is true? Jesus’ answer is, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Would your love for the brotherhood convince the world that Jesus is real?
Jesus was confident that love speaks more forcefully than well worded debate. If our actions as conservative Mennonites were used as evidence for the proof of God’s existence, would we have the critical evidence needed to convince the skeptic that Jesus is real? When we love we are acting in the holy character of God, and the world sees love in a world full violence and hate.
We can be sure that human relationships that grow out of God’s love are not pleasing to Satan, and he will attack, cause doubts, and foster cynicism and distrust to destroy those relationships.
Do we lay down our life for the brethren?
While many evidences are debated, the undeniable proof of Christianity is love that is willing to sacrifice goods, position, and personal benefits for the benefit of another. The Apostle John sets the bar high for the standard and intensity of love. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:1213).
Sacrificial living and behavior is the essence of Christ’s kingdom principle. Nothing speaks louder and more forcefully to a world that is seeking critical evidence than giving up or laying down things that are rightfully ours for the sake of our brethren.
We need an increased vision of the gospel of love in our church life. The side by side churches in many communities tell the world that we settle our differences by division, the same as the unloving world, rather than reconciliation. The “I don’t need you” spirit is the same spirit that Cain had when he rose up and slew Abel.
Conservative Mennonites are loyal to Biblical separation, which is inestimable in preserving an environment where holiness can be nurtured. There is, however, no true conservatism without sacrificial love and unreserved commitment to one another.
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also” (1Jo 4:20-21). A genuine desire to be obedient will produce love.
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1Pe 1:22).
Conversion brings a passion for truth and will lead to genuine relationships built on the foundation of truth. Any conservatism that is built without godly love is built on sand. When the floods come it will not stand. It seems that Satan has succeeded in using permissiveness and worldliness and compromise as a substitute for love. Compromising truth in the name of love is a pseudo or feigned love.
“Let love be without dissimulation” (Rom 12:9). When differences arise in your congregation or in your relationships, what action is taken to solve that difficulty? Can we bring the differing parties together with their grievances and openly discuss and shine the light of God’s Word on them to expose God’s answers, and then find a way to lovingly submit?
Our board meetings in our local churches need to be transparent and attended by unfeigned love. problems are not solved by gossip and whispering but by honest communication among brethren to find God’s solution. With electronic communication, the hurtful behind-the-back talk is spread easily in seconds; an unfeigned love will prayerfully consider before pushing the “send” button.
Love does not depend on loveliness. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mat 5:44).
With love comes vulnerability, but love returns good for evil! We can expect that we will be faced with situations of misunderstanding and even purposeful intent to hurt. God’s way is to choose to love and bear the injuries inflicted upon us, even when it is obvious that the perpetrator is our enemy. When our attempts to do good fail, we should follow the example of David and head for the wilderness and wait for God’s solution to become evident.
Christians accept others as superior to them even when they are unlovely. When we have trouble appreciating others, we are most often protecting ourselves and resenting the vulnerability that is part of being a blessing to your enemy.
Plain people are well known for helping each other with physical needs. Why is it that they are also known for their divisions in almost every long established community? Why are they not willing to sacrifice for the brethren when it comes to differences in church life? Wouldn’t it speak loudly to the world if new communities would be the result, rather than almost identical plain churches in the same county?
The young man that met us at the start of the article left me with parting advice. He said the thing that is needed most in the world is that “we do good to others.” isn’t that similar to what Jesus said? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
May God help us to present the critical evidence!