God is love. We have heard it, said it, read it, sang it over and over, a thousand times but what does it mean? It's easy to say whether we love coffee, or Vegemite, football or the beach.
Churches, indeed Christians like you and me, are struggling to let 'our little light shine.' We manage OK until the topic is Moslems, homosexuals, refugees or any kind of 'other.'
I was blessed. My dad was Roman Catholic and mum was a born again Anglican. When I sat in a Bible study and someone said I should hate Catholics, I reacted. Hate my dad! Ridiculous! What about my aunties, uncles and cousins? Hate them too? No way!
Jesus loved me and I knew He overlooked a lot of rubbish in my life. Despite my shortcomings, He came and He kept coming, so was I supposed to find reasons to unlove others? Not likely.
I confess I can be very frustrated when I hear Christians bypass the tragedy of terror with 'God will take care of it' comments. The day after six policemen were shot, someone suggested we should pray for God's protection on the blue brigade. But why weren't we praying for them before? Have we become so happy clappy, we've locked the world out and retreated into our own cave?
I prefer to observe world events. Our hearts should break over the human tragedy channeled into our homes night after night. Jesus commissioned His church to go into all the world. He anointed His people to be His ambassadors. We are called to be a city set on the hill, with the light of His love shining.
Street protests are very revealing. Look at the faces of the people as they confront one another. They show anger, even hatred. I wonder if the way we communicate shows that kind of attitude to the very people we are elected to reach. They may not see it on our faces but is it the spirit that speaks?
We are wrestling with major issues today. The early church had significant hurdles to overcome but they knew to find their wisdom and strength through fellowship and prayer. They were equipped to face life threatening moments because they believed God was with them.
We can be overcome by the wickedness in the world, or we can rise up knowing we have the Lord on our side and He is the difference.
In a comment on homosexuality, Christian author Philip Yancey said;
"After I wrote about my friendship with Mel White (homosexual and gay activist), I received a number of letters condemning me for continuing the friendship. "How can you possibly remain friends with such a sinner!" the letter-writers demanded. I've thought long and hard about that question, and come up with several answers which I believe to be biblical. The most succinct answer, though, is another question: "How can Mel White possibly remain friends with a sinner like me?" The only hope for any of us, regardless of our particular sins, lies in a ruthless trust in a God who inexplicably loves sinners, including those who sin differently than we do." (Extract: Homosexuality by Philip Yancey)
Throughout my walk of faith I have drawn great wisdom from the writing and preaching of Dr. J. I Packer. In an article 'What is Evangelism" he wrote: "In the Bible evangelism is not only the work of God it is also a work of man or rather a work through man. As God sent his Son to become man and so to explain him (John chapter 1 verse 18) so now, adhering to the incarnational principle, he sends men to be heralds, ambassadors and teachers in his name and on his behalf." (Serving the People of God, J.I Packer, page 245)
He describes three main words to describe the evangelism activity and they mean (1) tell the good news, (2) utter an announcement, (3) bear witness.
In my own outreach experience I applied 'common ground' as a first priority. As a youth outreach we visited teenagers in prison. We played table tennis with them, we gave them comic books, we shared in some of their sports activities and genuinely touched base on their turf.
Overseas the same thing, we enjoyed locals showing us around, introducing new recipes to us and enjoying their family events. In America there is much said about community policing, meaning the importance of police being people on the beat rather than just ominous blue uniforms.
The same principle applies for Christians. The world needs to know we are Christians by our love and as I study the news, there is no shortage of ready opportunities.
"Since the fall of man the earth has been a disaster area and everyone lives with a critical emergency. Nothing is normal. Everything is wrong, and everyone is wrong until made right by the redeeming work of Christ and the effective work of the Holy Spirit," wrote A. W. Tozer. (That Incredible Christian, A.W. Tozer, OM Publishing)
We know about the Cross and the Resurrection, the gracious work of Jesus Christ. The effective work of the Holy Spirit continues speaking to you and me, offering the get up and go empowering and equipping.
Tozer said, "The needs of the people, not our own convenience, decide how far we shall go and how much we shall do. Had there been no disaster there would have been no need for the Eternal Son to empty Himself and descend to Bethlehem's manger."
He paid the price. Tozer said 'the divine goodness confronted the human emergency.'
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html