The study on the epistles of 1, 2, 3 John was a reminder that we are to love one another and this love is not one that is expressed in words alone, but more importantly, one that is expressed in action.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:18
“And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 4:21
There is a saying that goes: “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. There is great wisdom in this as we consider how we may bring the Good News of salvation to our friends and family. We have the most wonderful and important message of salvation, of an abundant life that the Lord has promised to those who belong to Him. But the message needs to be lived out in our everyday lives for it to be real. To earn the right to tell our unbelieving friends that God loves them and desire for them to have a loving relationship with Him, they must first see that this love is real in us. This love can be demonstrated firstly in the way we, as Christians treat one another and secondly, in the way we show concern and make time for non-believers.
3 incidents provided me some food for thought on this matter.
(1) At a recent gathering with my old school friends, we were proud that one of our friends had recently been appointed CEO of a rather significant organisation in the corporate world. Although he was invited to the gathering, he didn’t make it. We joked that he was so busy now that he did not have time for mere mortals like us! On reflection, this situation spoke to me about my Christian witness. I realize that I may have spent such a large part of my time with Christian friends and church ministries that it may have rendered my Christian witness rather ineffective. If I do not make time for my non-Christian friends, is it any wonder that they won’t really be interested to come to church or our cell groups or to evangelistic events when invited? I need wisdom to find a balance. All of us need that. (And I guess for some of us who do spend quite a bit of time with non-Christian friends, the encouragement will be to make use of every opportunity to be Christ’s ambassadors, to be in the world but not of the world.)
(2) My CG had a retreat to JB a few months ago and one cell group member invited her cousin and her (the cousin’s) husband along. The cousin is a very new believer and the husband (at that point in time) was not very approving of Christians and Christianity. During the trip, we got to befriend this couple and all of us made them feel loved and accepted. We did not do anything “spiritual” like Bible study or morning devotion – just the usual stuff like shopping and eating and chit chatting! So it was a great encouragement to all us when we had feedback that the couple had a really wonderful time and that they were very impressed with how we Christians treated each other, how we were so patient and considerate towards one another. We have invited them to our cell group dinners since and they have been happy to come and fellowship with us every time. The cousin has also started to attend our CG regularly and her husband does not mind sitting in the discussion (near the end of the study) when he comes to pick her. That is a marked change in his attitude towards Christians. Praise the Lord!
(3) Due to the ‘O’ level exams, my Prinsep Lighthouse DG (Discipleship Group) chat group was more active as prayers and encouragements were sent to one another more regularly. One of the youths who had not been regular responded to the postings and thanked us for praying for him. It was a very pleasant surprise to ‘hear’ from him after a long time. I’m thankful to be in touch with him again and pray to have the opportunity to follow up further. The attendance during the ‘O’ level period was even better than non-exam time! It showed me that when people feel loved, cared for and connected, they respond positively.
You will have known by now that our church is planning to start the Alpha Course next year. One of the strategies of the course is “Belonging before Believing”. This is moving in the right direction. I know of someone who came to know the Lord through the Alpha Course. She wasn’t converted during the course itself but because of the friendship made with the hosts from the church, she continued to meet occasionally with the church members over lunch and was invited to events such as Christmas parties and gatherings. As a result of this connection, she became a believer a few years later. Belonging before Believing.
The mission of reaching lost souls for Christ is always urgent and I pray that the Lord will constantly rekindle in us the desire to actively do all we can to present the Good News to as many as we can. Let us pray that we will be the salt and light to the world, so that when they see our good works, they will give praise to our heavenly Father. So that when we invite them to come and explore the truths of the gospel, whether to the Alpha Course, or to our cell groups or to our services on Sunday, they will come because they want to know the God that we believe in, the God who loves us. In response to God’s love, let us love them into God’s Kingdom.