Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. (EZEK. 47:10)
Notice the obvious here. These fishermen didn’t have to find their way upriver to the source of the stream. The source came to them. They didn’t need to go to church, because the church had gone to them. Jesus did not set up a headquarters and wait for the people to come. He went. And everywhere Jesus went he brought life to dead places. He was not out and about doing activities that might attract people. His was a movement of magnetic mercy.
So why do our missional activities in the world lack the irresistible magnetism of Jesus? In a word: love. It’s easy enough to love helping people. It’s another thing to love people. This brings us back to the challenge of our arrested adolescent faith. Helping people tends to make us feel worthwhile. Loving people makes them feel worthwhile. We all know we can help people without truly loving them but it is impossible to love them without helping them.
Helping people, which is a good thing, requires showing up. Loving people, which is a supernatural thing, necessitates growing up. Yes, this word “love” has been confused in our age. It has been confused in every age. Jesus brings crystallized clarity to its meaning.
Most of us recognize the text of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It captures the first half of the gospel. Less familiar is 1 John 3:16, which captures the essence of the second half of the gospel: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
The journey of awakening is the Spirit-empowered, hard-fought movement of John 3:16 to 1 John 3:16. Our calling is to press on beyond adolescent faith and grow up into the maturity of love, which is nothing less than the fullness of Jesus Christ. When the people of God learn to live into 1 John 3:16, the watching world will begin to believe in John 3:16. When one generation embraces the calling into the second half of the gospel, the next generation will risk the faith to trust the first half.
One word captures this movement from Jesus’ love for the world to our love for it. It is a word so visceral it defies definition. It’s a word that gathers up love and life and longing into a seamless whole. The word integrates faith and action, unifies work and prayer, and joins together in an irrevocable bond the mystery of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection. The word is “travail.”
Throughout history, this word has served as the watchword for awakening.
It is to that word and all it represents we now turn.
Lord Jesus, lead us from your love for the world to our love for the world. Even better, lead us to your love for the world through us. Apart from you we are not capable of the kind of love that truly changes things, that awakens the dead. Make us people of profound love. Come Holy Spirit! We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.
Do you really want to become a person of profound love; one who shares the heart of God for other people? What will this take to happen?
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