Where is the Love?

Where-is-the-love

When I hear the above question, I automatically start singing the song by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack recorded in 1972 –

Where is the love

You said you’d give to me

Soon as you were free

Will it ever be?

 

Nice love song.

I also go in my mind to The Black-Eyed Peas version from 2001.

Bit if you only have love for your own race

Then you only leave space to discriminate

And to discriminate only generates hate

And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Where is the love, the love, the love?


Powerful song.

Non-Christians were asked for a one-word description of Jesus.

And the survey says, “LOVE!”

 

They’re right!   Jesus told his followers that God’s will for all humanity is summed up in two commands: Love God and Love your neighbor. Jesus went on to say that our neighbor is anyone who needs our help. Then Jesus takes this love thing to a crazy level when he says that we are not just to love our neighbor but we are to love our ENEMIES!

When Jesus tells us the one thing that identifies us as His followers…

That one thing is Love.

Not doctrine.

Not a belief.

Not dogma.

Convicting words.

Non-Christians were asked for a one-word description of Christians.

And the survey says, “Judgmental!”

 

Are they right?

Barna’s research seems to say so… Check out this article – 87% of 16-29 year olds say Christians are judgmental.

Ok, so Christians have an image problem. We’re viewed as way judgmental.

But is it an image problem or a real problem?

In another Barna studyDavid Kinnamon, said it’s real:   “Many Christians are more concerned with what they call unrighteousness than they are with self-righteousness. It’s a lot easier to point fingers at how the culture is immoral than it is to confront Christians in their comfortable spiritual patterns.”

 

Jesus’ approach was just the opposite. Check out his story in the 4 Gospel accounts. You’ll notice that Jesus never got angry with prostitutes, adulterers, or people guilty of the “typical” sins. The only people Jesus judged and got ticked with were the religious folks for their judgmentalism, self-righteousness and failure to love.

The weird thing is this: the people who claimed to know and follow God better than anyone else ultimately killed him when he showed up.

The above Barna study revealed that 51% of American Christians polled have attitudes and actions that are more like the religious folks (the Pharisees) than they are like Christ. Based on the Barna research, here is what today’s Pharisees say:

  • “I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.”
  • “I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That’s between me and God.”
  • “I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.”
  • “I try to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.”
  • “I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.”
  • “I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong thing.”
  • “It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.”
  • “I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people’s failures and flaws.”
  • “I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.”
  • “People who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not.”

What’s missing from the list? Love. Where is the love? In Jesus.

To sum it up, let’s do what we hear in the last verse from The Black Eyed Peas:

Now, you gotta have love just to set it straight

Take control of your mind and meditate

Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all

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the-most-and-least-bible-minded-cities-in-america

“You can do better Phillip…..#4???”

This is a text I got a few days ago from one of my most sarcastic and best friends.  It then linked me to a survey conducted by the Barna Group for The American Bible Society who was looking for “American’s Most Bible-Minded Cities.”  Here’s a different link but to the same survey: Barna Group

See who’s in 4th place?  That’s Springfield, MO, where I live and pastor.  Yes, I could do better – in lots of areas, not just this one.

“Bible-mindedness.” What does that mean? How do you tell if you’re Bible-minded or not?    According to the survey, those who “report reading the Bible within the past seven days and agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible” are classified as Bible-minded.

A couple of thoughts:
Accuracy: According to Webster, “accuracy” is “freedom from mistake or error.”    Does one need to “strongly agree” that the Bible is “free from mistake or error” in everything within its pages – historical references, science references, chronology of events, details of events (For example, Mark 6:8 – Take a staff; Matthew 10:9-10 – Don’t take a staff,) to be considered Bible-minded?

This is a head scratcher.    What does this definition say about guys like Dietrich Bonhoeffer – yes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the guy who wrote The Cost of Discipleship, a book that’s on every evangelical pastor’s book shelf?  Yet, by this definition, he brings up the rear on the survey.  In his book, Christ the Center, Bonhoeffer, writing of the Bible and the use of historical criticism, uses pretty clear language, “But it is through the Bible, with all its flaws, that the risen one encounters us.  We must get into the troubled waters of historical criticism.”

Uh-oh. What does his view do to our understanding of what it means to be “Bible-minded”?

Does anyone question Bonhoeffer’s commitment to Christ, love for God, love for people?  Does anyone question his desire to live out the life of Christ in his culture?  Can we really label him as one of the “least Bible-minded”?

I’m just asking.

Second thought:
Going to Sunday School as a child, I remember proudly checking the box on my offering envelope that said, “I read the Bible every day last week.”   As I grew up, and continue to grow up spiritually, I realized that being “bible minded” was not as simple as checking the box.

The Pharisees knew the Scriptures like the back of their hands, but when God stood right in front of them, they didn’t know him from Adam (John 5:39-40).
Here are some questions I have to ask myself – questions that aren’t so easy to check off:

*Am I more attentive to my wife than I was last year?
*Am I more generous with my resources than before?
*Do I handle disappointments and hurts with trust in the God who has the power to work all things for good?
*Do I show compassion for those who are hurting?
*Do I do justice, love mercy, and walk in humble dependence with God (Micah 6:8)?

In other words, am I allowing the Word (Jesus) to whom the words of the Bible point, to transform me into His likeness?

“Bible-minded” “Christ-like”

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” Mark Twain

The latest “facts” from the Barna organization were released January 23 under the title, “America’s Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities.” Coming in at #1 is Knoxville, Tennessee, the home of the Lady Vols, with 52% of the population being “Bible-minded.”  Coming in last is Providence, Rhode Island with 9% being “Bible-minded.”  How ironic that a town named “Providence” is last in this category.  Roger Williams can’t be happy with this.  The town where I live, Springfield, Missouri, is in the top ten at #6 with 49% being “Bible-minded.”

As always, I have questions:

How do they reach these rankings?  What are the criteria? What does “Bible-minded” really mean?  Why didn’t they ask me?  For the past seven years the Barna people surveyed through phone and online interviews 42,855 adults.  The organization defines “Bible-minded” as having read the Bible within the last seven days and strongly believe that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.  Apparently they just asked people how often they read their Bibles.  That’s like asking people how often they exercise. Do our answers reflect what we actually do or what we should do?  How honest are the answers?

And what about the “accurate in all it teaches” line? What if a survey taker loves the Bible, values it as God-breathed, not only reads it but works hard at understanding it and applying it to life, yet sees Genesis 1 not as “accurate” history but as “accurate” poetry Tim Keller or who sees Jonah as “accurate” story but not “accurate” history C.S. Lewis?  Would they be considered “Bible-minded” or not?

Here are some take-aways for me:

* Thinking biblically is more than reading or even memorizing a lot of Scripture.  It is learning to think critically and practically about the Bible.  It’s about trying to understand the Bible in its original intent, its contexts, and its relevance to us today.  It’s about combining all of these things in both personal application and community encouragement.

* The Barna people say that the rankings “reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible.”  That means that in my home town of Springfield, 51% of the residents are closed or resistant to the Bible.  Hmmm.  Being that Springfield is in the “Bible belt” maybe Christ-followers here need a little fashion advice on how to wear the “belt.” I know I’m “fashion challenged.”

* While I want to be “bible-minded” I want to be “Christ-like” even more. 1 John 2:6  Maybe the better question is, “Do I look like Jesus?”

* “I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me – they’re cramming for their final exam.” George Carlin

That hits home.  It’s good for all of us to read the Bible a lot more.  The Bible tells the truth about the Truth and leads us to Him.