This past weekend, Ed Ollie Jr. and Shawn Williams gave a message on what it means to move together as one church. Willow Creek, they challenged us to think about our church, its seven campuses, and what incredible gains for the Kingdom of God we might make if we pulled together and all went after the same goal.
They spoke deeply on the power of love and unity within the church: “Yes, we are to go, and yes, we are to love,” Ed said, “but Jesus also prayed we would do it together. He prayed we would have unity.”
Without love and unity at our core, we’d be pushing away the same people we were trying to reach, and what often gets in the way of us reaching our goal as a church? We do. Christians do.
Quoting Bruce Kuhn, an actor, Ed said, “I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like Jesus. It is often the Christians they can’t stand.” Wow. That one hits hard. If we’re going to be a church that moves together as one, we need to be a church that loves as one, and loves like Jesus.
Romans 5:8b says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” As Christians, we know we’re sinners. That’s why we became Christians: At some point, we understood we needed a Savior. At a personal level, we embraced Jesus’ amazing grace and love. However, at one time or another in our lives, each one of us forgets to show grace and love to someone else.
It’s all too easy for us to slide over into the judge’s seat and slam down the gavel, saying “Guilty!” It’s easy to point the finger: She’s LGBT. He’s having sex outside of marriage. She’s had an abortion. He’s a racist. She’s an addict. He doesn’t believe in anything. Instead of being a church of love and wrapping our arms around those who need us, we condemn and judge.
Shawn told us “we go to others because there is an all-knowing and all-powerful God who radically and unconditionally chose to love us when we did not deserve it.” God loved us while we were still sinners; we need to love others in the same way.
In a merciless society that’s quick to “cancel” and jump to conclusions, Ed said we need to be a church known by our love. The world doesn’t need more people walking by and pointing a finger. What the world needs is a unified group of people showing love, compassion, and a willingness to serve and help. We forget so much what it’s like to be on the other side of the finger.
What if the world began to see the church not as a community who judges, but as a community who loves? How many more people would walk through our doors? How many more people would meet Jesus for the first time?
This community starts with each of us. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15b). Maybe that’s the mentality each of us needs to have: I’m a Christian, yes, but that doesn’t make me better than anybody else. We’re each struggling with something: lust, anger, addiction, infidelity, pride, gossip, hate, codependency, and more. Whenever that urge to point the finger rises, let’s remember we’re sinners, too. We still need the grace and forgiveness God offers.
Love attracts more than hate, and Jesus attracts more than us.
Let that be our challenge this week: Whenever we want to point the finger, let’s remember the cross. The cross is for them just as much as it is for us. Let’s move in love together, as one church.