Many Christians in the United States struggle to really look like Jesus and separate themselves from the culture around them. We emphasize obedience to the point where rules dominate but relationship with God and others is an afterthought. For example, we can really emphasize things like church attendance, tithing, and avoiding perverse media. While obeying those rules, we feel free to slander others — even other Christians — whom we have disagreements with, spend our discretionary income on indulgent comforts, and “filter” all the content we really want to watch without really considering how so much media — especially social media — alters how we think.
In this age of extreme divisiveness in the church, this verse from 1 John prominently stands out:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. — 1 John 4:20
So often we “seek truth” to the point where we can completely miss reality, and we try to be right so much that we’re wrong. We ignore the heart. We not only ignore our own heart and motivation, which can be easily deceived if we lose sight of God’s grace, but we also lose sight of the heart of God.
I would argue that by being so intent on being right and seeking right theology as our foundation and identity that we have lost sight of who God has really called us to be. That’s not to say that truth is unimportant — after all, truth important to embrace the salvation of Jesus and God’s grace in the Gospel — but if we fail to love but choose to disdain and scorn others then we have not embraced God’s truth. Love needs to be the foundation of our faith in Jesus, and this principle is grounded in the teachings of the Bible.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:1–3
It seems that love is absent in the actions and words of many Christians today. Are you one of those people? What does that say about your faith in Jesus and understanding of God’s grace? Are you embracing a theology founded in God’s love or a theology rooted in pride or even nationalism? If “right” or “righteous” are words that you seek to define yourself more than “loving,” than something within you is neither right nor righteous.
And I’m right there with you. Our current culture led by mostly unregulated and divisive social media has driven many of us away from embracing and sharing God’s love. Will you reflect on this with me? I know I have a TON of growing to do in this area. This concept of “love first” not only challenges what I think, but how I think.
So much has changed for the worse in the past decade due to rapid growth in social media. As you reflect, take a listen to the powerful (and almost prophetic) words in this song by musical artist Jack Johnson back in 2008.