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.