Jump Start # 1911
1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
I was asked recently if it is possible to love the church more than God. I haven’t really thought of that before. I always assumed that if you love God you will love the church and if you love the church you will love God. And I never thought about our love being a contest, which one do I love the most. Like a parent with several children, you love them all. It is because of God that we love each other.
The thrust found in the New Testament, especially John’s letters, are to love one another. There were social and cultural differences that those early disciples had to work through. Jew, Gentile mixes often didn’t mix very well. It would probably be hard for a slave to love his master. There were layers of things that they had to work on. Loving God seems so easy and natural. Why love God? Jesus. That’s all one has to say. God sent the best when we were at our worst. God loves us. His love isn’t because we are so cute and adorable but it was His choice. When we bend our will and obey Christ, we become part of God’s family. Like a physical family, you don’t get to pick who your brothers and sisters are. Some of us have great siblings. Some didn’t turn out so hot. So, loving one another can be a challenge. We all have our own history and story. We all are unique in our own ways. Personalities clash. Feelings sometimes get hurt. Innocent comments can be taken the wrong way. We can bump and bruise one another. That’s life in a family and that can be life in a congregation. We sometimes use the expression, “church family.” There has been a lot of lessons about forgiving one another and even loving one another.
But, is it possible to love the church more than God? I suppose so. I suppose we can love anything. We are not to love the world, which implies it is possible, just don’t do it. Years together in the same congregation will unite hearts and friendships are formed. We like each other. It is the highlight of the week coming together to be with each other. We share laughter, stories, tears and challenges. We’ve sung together, prayed together and been in each other’s homes. We’ve grown fond of one another. All of this is good. Folks long for this. This is where real fellowship takes place. But is it possible to love each other more than God?
What would that look like, to love one another more than God?
First, there would be a tendency to rush through worship. Let’s get done with the Worship stuff so we can be with our friends. There would be more talk about each other than there would be of God. The persuading factor in inviting people would not be the saving Gospel of Christ, but a great church family. Great friends. Great people. So, in this way, God is innocently shoved to the background.
Second, there would be a temptation to please each other more than to please God. We like one another and we want to keep each other happy. When God is not at the front of our thoughts, the temptation arises to not be so strict, serious and careful with what God says. We want to have fun with our friends may take us down some roads and lead to some choices that are not found in the Bible. We place a higher value on our fellowship with each other than our fellowship with Him. Social activities funded, supported, established and emphasized by the church become more important than the preaching of the Gospel. There is a place for social connections and activities. They are an extension of the home and the individual and not the church. We don’t find the early church using funds to feed people who were not needy Christians. We take our eyes off the Bible when we love one another more than God.
Third, there would be times when we are lax in standing with God, when we love the church more than we do God. Discipline, as unpleasant as it is, is a part of God’s pattern and necessary in both the home and the church. When we love each other more than we love God, we will not be so serious about discipline as we should be. We’ll look the other way. We won’t preach repentance. We will allow folks to come and go as they please. We will bend the rules for some. The result becomes a worldly church that is a spiritual mess. Instead of calling to repent, as God told the churches in Revelation, we’d say, “We love you and you just do what you feel like.” When the church is loved more than God, discipline becomes a touchy subject. Some will stand with a person in error rather than stand with God. They do that because they may love the church more than they love the Lord.
I think about some of those great stories in the Bible that remind us of standing with God. Joshua, telling Israel to choose who they will serve. He said, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. He loved the Lord more than the people. If the opposite were true, you’d find Joshua doing what the nation did.
Fourth, when we love the church more than God, there is a thinking that the church is our Savior. There is more concern about pleasing the church than pleasing God. There is more emphasis upon image than substance. I’ve heard folks say in the past, when disagreeing with what the Bible says about divorce, “Well, I can go down the road and find a church that says I’m ok.” Well, you probably can. Does the church save you? Because a church says something, doesn’t mean that God does. You hear it this way as well, “The church I grew up in always believed…” We are the church. We didn’t write the Bible. We are saved sinners. Your hope is not in the church, but in Christ. The church can’t save you, but God can. When we love the church more than we love God, we are more interested in what the church says than what God says. We are converted to Christ. We belong to Christ. We are His. When we forget that, our thinking gets fuzzy. We put each other before God.
So, is it possible to love the church more than God? Yes. What do we do? We stick our noses into the Bible. We drink deeply of God’s promises, grace and love. We get our order back in order. We are a work in progress. God isn’t. God is perfect. There is a place for the church. The church is essential in our walk with the Lord. The church helps. The church functions as the avenue to worship and prepare people for Heaven. But at the end of the day, we love the Lord more than we love the church.
Loving the Lord first and foremost, will keep us close to His word and His way and help us to be truly His people.
Hope this helps.