Brother Abdul pastors a small church in northern Nigeria. Once a radical Muslim, Abdul met Christ when he was infiltrating a church to terrorize Christians. He now serves in a heavily Muslim area so he can share Christ with them. Because of his witness, his eldest son was murdered and his home burned to the ground.
But he and his family continue their work because God has given them love for their persecutors; so he shows them God’s love in tangible ways, like giving goats cover children’s school fees, and their hearts are gradually opening to the Gospel.
When Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:19, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” He was passing on the mission of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In essence, Jesus was saying to His disciples, “I so love the world, that I am giving them you, so that whoever believes in Me will not perish but have everlasting life.”
Going can be uncomfortable. It may even lead to hardship. But if Jesus was willing to undergo hardship, shouldn’t we be also?
1 John 4:8 tells us “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
God is very serious about His love for the world. So serious, in fact, that throughout history when His people have not heeded His command, He moves in the earth so His people come face to face with the lost; so the lost can come to know His love.
Consider the Early Church; many of them were enjoying the fellowship and care of the Christian community in Jerusalem and other enclaves. Roman persecution thrust them out, scattering them far and wide; and Christianity spread rapidly.
In 16th century, King Louis XV persecuted Protestants in France in an effort to eradicate them from the nation. About half a million believers fled, relocating throughout Europe, South Africa, and even North America. That diaspora helped lead to the sharing of Christ on this continent, helping establish North America as a beacon of hope and a place from which the Gospel has been spread for many years.
God still desires for the whole world to experience His love. When He sees His people worshipping in comfort and ease while across the world others are dying without His love; in His love He shakes things up.
In the shakings, God wants us see through His lens of love. We have to set aside our ethnic lens; our political lens, even our religious lens, and see as God sees.
When students riot on campus or turmoil embroils a community, out of fear, rejection or anger, we must see through His lens of love. God wants people to know they are completely accepted by Him, so He is bringing them to our attention.
When tens of thousands of people flee to the U.S. illegally, we must look through His lens of love. God wants them to know their Savior, so He is bringing them to us!
When Muslim radicals rampage with violent hatred and bring their threats to our doorstep, we must understand through His lens of love. God wants them to be free from hate and bondage, so He is bringing them to us.
I know all these issues are complex and must be addressed on multiple levels. But the first and greatest command to disciples of Jesus Christ is love. The Apostle John tells us “whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) That tells us anything not done in love, is not done in God. Without love, every effort we make will fall flat and may do damage. Responding in godly love, however, has power to transform lives and situations.
God’s command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” is still relevant today. When we don’t move in His timing; in His love He brings the nations to us.
It is easy to get discouraged and even fearful as we consider circumstances in our nation and world. But God is up to something – God is up to love. And He is still calling His people into that great plan.
Crossing racial, cultural, socio-economic, or even emotional barriers to share God’s love can seem scary. But the Apostle John, who stood up against Roman oppression and religious persecution in his day states emphatically “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18). Instead of fear, let God’s love penetrate your heart with compassion for those who are living life and facing eternity with Him. Despair and hopelessness cause them to act out in ways that make them seem unapproachable at times. But they are dying for love.
Like God told Joshua, as he was stepping into Moses shoes, as leader of Israel, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” As God’s people step into His shoes of love to lead people out of darkness into His glorious light, God will be with us.
Brother Abdul has embraced God’s call to love and His admonition to be courageous; and over time He is seeing even Muslims won to Christ.
Is God calling you to take His love to another country? Will you go?
Is God prompting you to share His love tangibly in your community? When will you start?
Is God telling you to befriend a hard-to-love neighbor or co-worker for the sake of the Gospel? Will you respond?
When I was in graduate school a group of students started ministering in a low-income area known for its crime and poverty. I was busy working full time and going to school full time, so I really did not want to get involved. But I obeyed the prompting of the Lord and went to check it out. The very first night God filled my heart with love for the people in that community. For the next seven years I served in that student ministry, mentoring kids and loving the adults. We saw people receive Jesus and be set free from addictions. We saw kids who lived in a community of dropouts, graduate from high school and even go to college. We saw God completely transform that neighborhood. The time I spent sharing the love of Jesus there was the most joyful and fulfilling time of my week. Somehow I had time to continue a full-time job, complete two graduate degrees AND serve that community. God made a way. On top of that, my faith had never been so alive.
James 2:17 tells us that, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Likewise IJohn 3: 18 says “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”
God’s greatest commandment is love. He is shaking up the world so the lost can experience His great love. Now its time for the Church to be His vessel of love to the least, the last, the lost and even the scary!
[written by Jodie Nelson Chiricosta, an agent of positive change]