Love Does Indeed

I am presently at a conference called THRIVE in Northern California, hosted by Bayside Church. Yesterday Bob Goff of Love Does fame spoke. Here is his deal if you don’t know. He is one of the most inspiring people you could ever meet. I had the privilege of hanging out with him a couple of years ago until all hours of the night with a few other people, and the things God has used him for that he explored with us are insane. And his whole message is that that can, and should be, all of us. We should impact the world around us through love. Acts of love that make the world around you better, and more felt by God’s love and grace. My church is actually partnering with Bob’s organization this year at our annual golf tournament to build a hospital that will serve over 7000 women and kids in Mosul, Iraq who have been displaced by ISIS.

What a great opportunity to love.

Early Church Love

Historian and sociologist Rodney Stark points out the anomaly of Christian charity in the early years of the church’s existence. More than any other group Christians served the poor and sick with little to no regard for their own lives. They reacted very differently to widespread suffering and pain than those who adhered to the established polytheistic religions of the time. The Roman Emperor Julian said, “The impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us” (approx. 360 A.D). Dionysus, the Bishop of Alexandria, confirms this report saying:

[During the great epidemic] most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves…Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ…Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead… The [pagans] behaved in the opposite way. At the first onset of disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled even from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead” (260 A.D.).

The difference in what these people did was in what they believed. In Christianity God is not a distant, uncaring God who offers higher levels of enlightenment or religious principles for life, but a God who became one of us, suffered in our midst, calls us to love and actually rose from the dead and offers everlasting life to all those who trust in him.

The early church really believed that Jesus rose and thus they didn’t need to fear death either. And that freed them up to love in a way that didn’t have boundaries. Because even if they gave away all their money in an effort to love, they had eternal security and homes and rewards that transcended this world (Matthew 5-7, read these chapters for yourself!). Even if they contracted a disease, they were going to a place with no more sickness or tears or death (Revelation 21-22, and these!).

Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty spoke yesterday as well. He shared a story that on the runway on his way to the conference, the plane had to go back to the terminal three times for problems, and as they waited he listened to the stewardess’ talk. One had bills she was trying to pay because she was a med student and was talking to the other about the stress she was going through because of it. So as he left the plane once they landed he took all the cash out of his pocket (which would likely be more than you and I carry!), and gave it to her with a note that said “God bless you.” He said he never did this kind of stuff until he met Bob Goff, and read his book.

Random acts of love, but life changing, even for a few days, or months, for another person who may or may not know the God behind such acts, such power.

The truth is: the gospel doesn’t just free us up to believe the right things, or have some kind of private spirituality, it frees us up to love. It frees us up to do what God did: give stuff up to bless others.

And in those acts, change the world.

Debunking myths: the church is against science!

If you go back through history, the church and science were at times at odds with one another; those disagreements, however, have been gravely exaggerated. When atheists speak of the church’s persecution of scientists, we hear stories of people being burned at the stake for scientific theories; we hear about Galileo, Copernicus and Giordano Bruno being persecuted by the church for a ‘heliocentric’ view of the universe – the idea that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around – and other such stories. Thrilling dramas, however, they are not true.

Historian David Lindberg speaking about the medieval era, writes, “There was no warfare between science and the church.”[1] Historians are virtually unanimous that there never has been a conflict, and that the science versus religion story is a nineteenth-century fabrication (by such writers as John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White).[2] The mythology of the church vs. science is more informed by famous plays – such as Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galilio, which present the man as a martyr for the cause of science, than actual history. The church did not persecute Copernicus or Bruno or Galileo for scientific theories. Don’t get me wrong, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake; but he “was not executed for Copernicanism but for a series of theological heresies centering on his view of the trinity.”[3] A gruesome reality indeed, but not one based on fear of scientific discovery.

Another modern example of this historical revisionism is the story of the medieval church believing that the Bible taught a flat earth, and then reacting in outrage when science came along and corrected it. Again, this is simply not true. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people knew the earth was round. They observed that the hull of a ship sailing from shore disappears before the top of the mast, and would see the reflection of the earth on the moon during an eclipse.[4] They knew the earth was round. The so-called flat-earth conflict is simply part of nineteenth century propaganda.

And so, Oxford professor Alister McGrath concludes, “The idea that science and religion are in perpetual conflict is no longer taken seriously by any major historian of science…. One of the last remaining bastions of atheism survives only at the popular level – namely, the myth that an atheistic, fact-based science is permanently at war with a faith-based religion.”[5]


 

[1] David Lindberg, “Medieval Science and Religion,” in Gary Ferngren, ed., Science and Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). 70.

[2] Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 85-86.

[3] Quoted in Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity? (Washington: Regnery, Inc., 2007), 104. Italics added.

[4] Ibid., 103.

[5] Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism, 87.