Love thy neighbor … It’s easier to say than do.
The Disciple Nations Alliance exists to serve the church, helping her rise to her full potential in healing, blessing and restoring broken nations. To this end, our message to the church for the past 15 years has been two-fold: (1) Abandon false beliefs, embrace a full-orbed Biblical worldview, and live it out faithfully in every area of public life, and (2) Love your neighbor in tangible, practical, and sacrificial ways. In a recent letter, Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio brings these twin areas of emphasis together in a powerful way:
“The Christian duty to love God and neighbor has cultural consequences. The law of love affirmed by our Lord…should take shape in the way we live and in the ways of shared life that we promote and nurture. The practices, institutions, and artifacts that comprise cultural life can either honor the givenness God has established in the order of Creation, or they can promote disorder. The wisdom required by love demands that we discern the difference—in theory and in practice—between forms of cultural life that are in keeping with the grain of the universe and those that will (eventually) cause splinters.
“Love has cultural consequences. Love takes form. Love is not simply a private sentiment but the ordering principle for all of life. We are creatures made in the image of a God who is love. All creation finds its coherence in the logos that is love. If these claims are true, they have consequences for public life, not just in the private sphere…
“Perhaps the greatest contemporary threat…to properly loving God and neighbor comes from those who insist that the grace announced in the Gospel eliminates the need to strive for discernment or faithfulness. Efforts to think Christianly or to live in a way that resists the disorders of a confused culture are regarded as legalistic…The message of the Gospel is on this account only about personal salvation… There is no order to Creation that we should seek to honor, no meaning in human nature that we should protect… But the rejection of any deliberate practicing of the consequences of faith means that the culture around us will shape how we live and how we understand reality.” (from the Mars Hill subscriber newsletter, August 2012).
That last sentence immediately brought to mind Darrow’s oft-quoted insight: “If the church fails to disciple the nation, the nation will disciple the church.” We either understand and embrace God’s mission and its implications for our lives, joining Jesus on His Kingdom offensive, bringing truth, goodness and beauty into every area of life and culture, or we opt out, disengage, and “go with the flow,” allowing the brokenness and disorder of our surrounding culture to shape our lives.
Ken continues: “Modern dualism (in its secular and evangelical varieties) separates religion and culture, redemption and creation, piety and reason, soul and body, faith and faithfulness.”
I completely agree. Modern dualism is indeed the greatest contemporary threat to properly loving God and neighbor. We’ve written extensively on this problem (see here and here for two examples), as well as my book Beyond the Sacred Secular Divide: Towards a Wholistic Life and Ministry.
Ken writes that “wisdom required by love demands that we discern the difference between forms of cultural life that are in keeping with the grain of the universe and those that will (eventually) cause splinters.”
Here is just one example of what this looks like in the real world. Walter Crutchfield is a real estate developer here in Phoenix, and a follower of Jesus. Like most contemporary Christians, it never really occurred to him to make a connection between his faith and his work. This began to change following the collapse of the housing market in Phoenix. The housing bubble was largely greed-driven. It led to massive urban sprawl and a host of other “splinters.” Instead of promoting a culture of goodness, Walter found himself contributing to a culture of greed. Instead of promoting beauty, he found himself contributing to sprawl.This caused him to reflect deeply on his work, how it related to his calling as a Christian, and how he might use his expertise in land development to bring beauty and blessing to the community.
Today, Walter has found his mission. His faith informs his work, which has resulted in positive cultural consequences for our city. For Walter, love for God and neighbor are expressed through his work. Watch his story here.
If every Christian expressed their love for God and neighbor through their work in this way, the impact would be enormous. What’s holding us back? We’ve provided a number of resources to help Christians in this area. You can check them out at MondayChurch.org. –
– Scott Allen