One of Jesus’s Most startling prophecies was a simple statement, “Because of lawlessness the love of many will grow cold. (Matt. 24:12)”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. For many in the church, the focus of this saying is on the lawlessness, the iniquity.
We hear it in the voices that say, “It’s because of things like abortion, adultery, and [insert your cultural malaise of choice] that our culture is in the trouble it’s in.”
But what if those kinds of issues are more effect than cause? What if we’re focused on the symptoms and not the disease?
What is lawlessness? In our minds, we think of lawlessness as a barren Mad-Max-style dystopian nightmare. But I don’t think Jesus would see it that way. In his mind, the whole law was summed up simply as:
- Love God with your heart, mind, and soul
- Love your neighbor as yourself
If love is the law, then lawlessness is simply a lack of love. It’s almost like Jewish parallelism, “The vacuum created by your lack of love will begin sucking the love out of everything you touch.” The negative aspects we see in our culture are not the problem, but the natural progression of a people losing their ability to put the good of others above their own.
It makes sense that Jesus saw it that way. There was no end to the cultural problems that Jesus could have addressed. But instead of seeing prostitution as a social ill that needed to be demolished, he saw prostitutes as women who needed to experience love.
In the end, it was love that transformed hearts and kindled a fire of love in the people it touched. Love is transferable… and so is indignation.
Are we responsible for lawlessness?
One of the problems with God’s people is our inability to trust the transforming power of love. It’s one of the most elemental things we see in the life of Jesus, and his harshest words were for others, like us, who put their confidence in censure and control to combat lawlessness.
The response of loveless people to a loveless message is rebellion.
We were left here to be Christ to the world and create disciples who also emulate Jesus. We are ambassadors for a kingdom to come (2 Cor. 5:20). Ambassadors who carry the spirit of their home with them wherever they go.
We are not called to make converts to a religion, a philosophy, or an ideology. We are entrusted with the responsibility of making disciples of Christ. People who walk like Jesus, love like Jesus, and sacrifice like Jesus.
Love is our apologetic. People experience the beauty of God’s kingdom when they see our love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Of these things Paul says there is no law. Why? Because they’re the identifiers of someone living out the law.
When we create converts based on arguments, policing, judgment and prodding. We are not creating disciples of love, we are encouraging lawlessness. We are growing a kingdom of people who believe love is expressed by delivering painful truths without anesthesia.
I can’t think of a worse ambassador than one who knows all the words and behaviors of his king, but feels no obligation to personify them.
After news broke about the religious overtones in the Roseburg, OR. shooting, Christians seized on the “stand up for your faith” element of the drama. It isn’t dissimilar to the “she said yes” movement after Cassie Bernall responded to questions of her Christian affiliation with a “yes,” and was shot during the Columbine massacre.
Soon Twitter and Facebook was awash in people standing up to declare their Christian faith with the hashtag #YesImAChristian. I don’t really have a problem with asking yourself the tough question of what you would do in that sort of situation. That seems like a fairly introspective thing to ask.
The troubling aspect of the hashtag is the us vs. them, muskox tone that keeps revealing itself. For so many, the hashtag is line in the sand, and not a response to deep reflection.
— Craig Carman (@NiceSign) October 5, 2015
Ask me if I'm a Christian and I will answer "#YesImAChristian. Why? You got a problem with that?"
— Double Joe (@doublejoe10) October 4, 2015
A picture of my dad taking a selfie got 48 likes but a #YesImAChristian status got 2 likes. That's what's wrong with people.
— Blessed Belle (@BWBitch15) October 4, 2015
It isn’t my desire to undermine the horror of the lives that were lost in Roseburg. But being hated for Christ’s sake comes packaged with Christ’s message:
- “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”—Matthew 24:9
- “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”—Matthew 10:22
- “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”—John 15:8
- “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”—1 Peter 4:16
It’s good to remind ourselves that, in response to potential persecution, we should be willing to align ourselves with Christ. But the fact that we do so out of indignant surprise is a sign of a religion that has enjoyed privilege and preference so long that it’s completely forgotten the plot.
The biggest indicator of the truth of #YesImAChristian isn’t having the wherewithal to post an update with that hashtag, it’s whether you’d sacrifice yourself for a targeted Muslim, Atheist, or anyone else who is an “other.” That’s what Jesus would do, that’s what Jesus did . . .
Rekindling flames of love
Jesus left us here as the keepers of love’s flame, and that’s not an easy job. You don’t get better at it by reading more Christian fiction books. You don’t get better at it by attending worship services or small groups. You don’t get better at it from writing blog posts or trending hashtags. You get better at it by being plugged into the vine of Christ.
Our work is spiritual by nature, not intellectual. In fact, it confounds the wise.
We don’t just love those who love us . . . even Hitler did that—big deal. And we aren’t about “loving the unlovable;” that’s an arrogant and condescending way to look at love. We are loving those that Christ loves and was willing to die for. We are loving those who also have yet to discover their own capacity for love.
Love is more profound and life changing than a hashtag. Love is transferable and transformational. I know because it changed me.