The vision of our church states that we exist to “love God, love each other, love our community and our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.” Why is our vision filled with the word “love?” It appears four times in our statement. The short answer is this: because God has poured out his love on us through Christ, we are called to respond in love.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism helps us to understand how and why love is the duty that God calls us to. Indulge me for a moment as we take a brief journey though the Catechism:
Q1. What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
Q2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Q3. What do the scriptures principally teach?
A: The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Q39: What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A: The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.a
Q40: What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A: The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.
Q 41: Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A: The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.
Q42: What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A: The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.
In summary, the catechism teaches us that we were made to glorify God and enjoy him. The Bible teaches us how to do that, and the summary of the Bible's teaching is for us to love God and to love our neighbors. As we prepare for the launch of our church in the near future, we are spending some time understanding what it means to love. So how do we do that?
We love because he loved us first.
Our love for God and for our neighbor is a response to the love that we have been shown. Typically, I get caught into believing that God loves me more when I am loving him and loving my neighbor. I believe that my righteousness is based on my ability to love. But this is not true! My ability to love is based on the love that God has shown to me in the gospel. We love because he first loved us.
The Greatest Commandment
Before Jesus was crucified, the teachers of the law tried to trap him with a question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus’ response? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:26-40) Jesus was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) and responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In essence, Jesus’ response was that all people are to be considered your neighbor.
I completely agree with Jesus, but—and I hope this doesn’t come across in the wrong way—but I really struggle with what he says here. When all people are “my neighbor,” the task to love all people completely overwhelms me. With such a tall task, I feel like it can’t possibly be done and therefore I don’t do it. I need focus, and smaller bits to chew on.
As we move forward in our church plant, loving our neighbor will look like this: loving our actual neighbors. What would it look like if we believed that God had placed us in our houses for a sovereign purpose: to love the people who live around us? I believe that God chose the place where we live and he orchestrated who lives around us, and he calls us to love them.
My wife and I just moved into our neighborhood. We bought our house back in December and have spent the last 8 months renovating our house. We can’t tell you how good it is to finally be living in our home. Despite the condition of the house when we first saw it, we were convinced that this was the place that God had providentially provided for our family.
Right now, we are strangers to the people who live on our street. They have watched the progress of our home renovation, but they haven’t been able to get to know us yet. We are looking forward to getting to know our neighbors. We are looking forward to knowing them and being known by them. But that isn’t all. We desire something much greater for our neighbors and neighborhood.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if every one of our neighbors were brothers and sisters in Christ who lived out the gospel as fellow missionaries in our community? That is something that I would love to see. People going from unknown strangers to fellow missionaries doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that involves movement. I would love to see the strangers on my street become neighbors, neighbors become friends, friends become family, and family become missionaries (thank you, Tim Brister, for this paradigm).
What would it look like to truly love my neighbors? To truly love them, I would want nothing less than for them to know Jesus as their Savior and live their lives for God’s glory.
To love is to know.
The first step in this process—the first step in loving our neighbors—is such a simple one. To love, you have to know. You can’t love people in relationship unless you know them.
How many of us today live near people that we don’t even know their names. We wave at them as we pull out of the garage, but we don’t know anything about their lives. The challenge that my family has before us right now is this: are we willing to order our lives so that knowing the people who live around us is a priority?. Life can get so full and so busy that we spend so much time doing things and going places, but we don’t know people.
As we prepare to launch Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, we desire to prioritize knowing others so that we can fulfill our vision to love. Without knowing, you can’t love. And when life gets too crowded and distracted, you can’t know. Beginning with few programs or ministries, we will focus on knowing and being known by others so that we can love God, each other, our community, and our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.