I’m preaching a series these days on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Last Sunday, we focused on the church in Ephesus – the church that had forsaken the love they had at first. In the past, I interpreted that to mean that they had fallen out of love with Jesus.
That their worship was routine, their prayer life mundane and their ministry motivated by nothing but duty. Now, I think that’s the wrong take. The text doesn’t say that.
What it says is that they were doctrinally sound, stubbornly faithful and actively serving. When Jesus does correct them, he tells them – and this is important – to dothe things they did at first. He doesn’t tell them to feel the way they used to feel. So whatever was missing the mark in Ephesus, it wasn’t about their emotions. It was about their actions. They had not lost that loving feeling – they had lost that loving doing.
We ended the sermon with an interesting experiment. I asked the gathered church to answer this question: What do people in a loving church do? Not what they believe. Not what they feel. Not what they think. What do they DO? Rather than just list all the answers, I’ve categorized them in the following groups along with some examples taken from the responses. Take a look.
A number of answers focused on the idea of respecting differences. I love these.
“People in a loving church love people regardless of how they act, what they believe or how they look.”
“They love each other unconditionally – all faults, all weaknesses, all shames.”
“They listen to others and take seriously the idea they believe things you don’t and are not stupid.”
“They treat everyone equally.”
Another set was aimed at making sure we stay in touch with each other.
“They get involved in the lives of others.”
“They keep in touch with one another.”
“We check on each other during the week.”
“They don’t let anybody sit alone.”
I was glad to see that a large number of answers were focused on basic hospitality.
“They greet each other with a smile.”
“They reach out to strangers and those they don’t agree with – just like we do with people we know and like.”
“They walk up and welcome people.”
“They fellowship with everyone – not just those in their cliques.”
This was the largest category – just helping, serving, caring for people.
“Seek out ways to help each other when in need.”
“Serve others for the glory of God. Because he first loved us.”
“Take care, emotionally and physically of others – both Christian and not.”
“Surround each other with love, encouragement and support in times of illness, trouble, and on happy occasions.”
This was, thankfully, a very popular response.
“They serve without boundaries.”
“They love and help their neighbors.”
“They work in the community to bring help to those who are in need.”
“They focus on the needs of the community and ‘provide for urgent needs,’ (Titus 3:14).”
I’ll admit that this is my favorite set of responses. Just telling each other the truth.
“A loving church member tells a fellow member, ‘Please do not complain to me. Please go directly to the person you have a problem with.’”
“We talk about our stuff.”
“They love people enough to tell them the truth.”
“They don’t pretend to have it all together when they don’t. And no one ever does.”
The Tricky Conclusion
After everyone had written and turned in their responses, I asked them to write exactly the same answer – word for word – on another piece of paper. Then I said, “Now, we’re going to do something that might make you uncomfortable. Stand up.” At this point, everyone figured we were going to have to wander around the sanctuary and give our answer to someone we did not know.
Admit it – you hate it when the preacher asks you do something like that in Sunday church.
Instead, here was the assignment. “Now you go out this week and do the thing you said people in a loving church do.”
So how about you? What do you think people in a loving church do? Be careful how you answer that. Because if that’s what you think loving people do – then you should be doing it!