During these strange days, we have been hearing a lot about the church needing to reveal God’s love in real and tangible ways. This isn’t a new thing. God (and others) have been saying this for a very long time. When a need arises or a crisis happens, we are not only reminded of what we should be doing but also how we may have wandered.
How do we show God’s love in real, tangible, and practical ways? That’s the topic I have been given to write about, and it’s not as easy as it sounds because how people around us (inside and outside the walls of the church) feel loved and need to be loved varies from person to person and situation to situation.
When our first son was born, my sister really wanted to be his favorite aunt. Turns out, he wasn’t a big hugger. Not then and not now. He was not one to run into his aunt’s arms the moment he saw her and give her a big ol’ bear hug. This bothered her, so she (for a very brief time) adopted a strategy of picking my son up, holding him at eye level, and saying “love me” over and over. As you can imagine, this strategy did not work well and only served to confuse my toddler son.
Now, my son did grow quite fond of his aunt, but only when she got down on the floor and played with him to discover what he liked and didn’t like. He felt loved and could love back.
I guess it’s a similar principle when we talk about the church showing love to people. We don’t always yell “love me” at folks, sometimes we do what we think is best for people and miss the mark of actually loving them in the way they need. We stand there yelling (in essence) “See I am loving you! Do you see?” and if people don’t respond the way we think they should, we can get mad at them. We may think “What’s wrong with them? Ingrates. I am over here loving them, and they don’t seem at all thankful.” If we do this, we are not only missing what God wants us to do but what we ought to be doing.
So how should we love?
Well there are tons of lists, books, and websites with all kinds of ideas. Some of them are really good, so I won’t give you a list. I just want to remind you where we need to start.
We need to get down on the floor, so to speak. We need to get to know people and their needs so we can show love that brings healing, help, peace, comfort or whatever is needed, in Jesus name. We won’t know what is needed until we know people. That’s where we start.
Churches, get to know your communities. Not what you think the needs are, but the real needs, and then prayerfully think through how you as a group can begin to address those needs (show love in real and tangible ways) and how you can point people towards Jesus (discipleship) as you meet those needs. Church folk, get to know your friends, neighbours, and coworkers. Get to know them well enough to know how they feel loved and what needs they have. Cookies are nice. Everybody likes cookies, but there are needs that cookies can’t meet (believe it or not). Get to know people well enough that you can love them well, in Jesus name.
That’s where we start. Not with a list of actions, but with a heart attitude and mindset that is oriented towards those who need to know Jesus’ love. Then we act and that will make all the difference.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada