How to Act Like a Christian [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Leith Anderson
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Sometimes it is hard to behave as God expects ... As senior pastor of one of the most effective churches in America, bestselling author Leith Anderson knows the questions and needs that Christians bring to the faith. How to Act Like a Christian offers encouraging words and practical help to anyone seeking to live fully and effectively in God's world. This book addresses the most urgent questions and concerns that affect a Christian's daily walk with God. Topics include: Forgiving Those Who Sin Against Us; Managing Money Like God is Going to Ask; Setting Sexual Boundaries; Making Important Decisions; Facing Serious Illness; Grieving Great Losses; Praying that Makes a Difference; Walking by Faith; and more.
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2006
1--Loving Like a Saint
Under General George Washington, the patriots were an inadequate military force against the greatest army in the world—the army of Great Britain, famous for their red coats.
The American patriots couldn't even afford uniforms, let alone adequate provisions and firearms. Sometimes they went into battle without even shoes. The troops needed something that would identify them, so Washington's army would wear something different into every battle. Sometimes it was a ribbon, sometimes it was a twig that was stuck into their clothing, but there was always a marker so they would know who belonged to the American forces.
Jesus Christ did something similar for all of those who became his followers. He didn't order a red coat or a yellow ribbon, but he did give an instruction on how Christians could be easily identified. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
So love is the distinguishing characteristic of Christians. You can always identify followers of Jesus by the love that they show. If this is the sign by which people know us, then we need to learn how to be good at loving like saints.
Is it as easy as just deciding to love others? How does this actually work?
Former President Jimmy Carter tells the story of a Cuban immigrant pastor named Eloy Cruz, a man who focused his life and ministry on Puerto Rican immigrants to the United States, people who were among the poorest of the poor. President Carter asked this pastor about the secret of his success. Cruz responded in humility and with a certain measure of embarrassment. "Señor Jimmy, we only need to have two loves in life—for God and for the person who happens to be standing in front of us at any time."
These "two loves" are well summarized in 1 John 4:7-21:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we have not seen. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another.
Here we have the mother lode of biblical teaching about loving others, and it really can be summed up very simply. God loves us; we love God and others.
That's easy to say—and as anyone who has tried to do this unconditionally knows—hard to do. Perhaps we need some guidelines.
Principle #1: Just do it
To be a Christian is to be a lover. There's been much misunderstanding about this, because often we think of love primarily as an emotion—something we have to feel toward someone else. Of course there is a dimension of love that is emotional. However, the biblical definition of love is action that is in the best interest of another person. Love is bent toward action.
I would never say, "Go ahead and hate everybody; just make sure you act like you love them." That's not what the Bible tells us to do. But if it comes down to a stand off between how you feel and what you do, biblical love is more about action than feelings. It would be ideal to combine them both in all of their fullness so that you felt an emotional love toward somebody while demonstrating love through action. But those things don't always come to us as a set. Christians love others whether they feel like it or not. Love is action—doing.
So do something! Show your Christian love. When somebody is standing in front of you, whoever that person is, react with the loving action that comes to mind. Just do it. The goal is to get into the habit. When you start a healthy, new life change—exercising, eating better, reading your Bible daily—it's difficult at first. You do it once and it's just plain hard. You do it twice and it's still difficult. You do it ten times and you start planting the seeds of a habit. At a hundred times, the habit will be established. Just start doing it.
"Okay," you say, "but what if I don't feel like it? What if I mess up? Here's a person whom I don't even like, and I'm supposed to act as if I love them? What's that going to do? I'm going to come across as a complete hypocrite."
Does it help to know that you are not the only person to face the embarrassment of difficult love? David Yonggi Cho is a pastor and the founder of a church in Seoul, Korea that is said to be the largest church in the world with 750,000 members. He is a marvelous communicator and in great demand around the world as a speaker. Pastor Yonggi Cho actually told God he would be willing to go anywhere in the world as a representative of Jesus Christ—except Japan. He had a good reason for this: the deep animosity that he and other Koreans felt toward the Japanese people because of atrocities committed during World War II. In Pastor Yonggi Cho's case there was family experience with these atrocities.
So, of course, he was invited to speak to 1,000 Christian pastors in the country of Japan. He accepted the invitation because he knew that it was the right thing to do, but he didn't want to go. Pastor Yonggi Cho prepared what he was going to say, stood up, looked at this audience of a thousand, and what came out of his mouth was absolutely not what he had prepared. He said, "I hate you. I hate you. I hate you." Good start for Christian love!? When he realized what he had said, he broke down and cried in front of all those people. Watching him weep, one person stood and then another and then another. One by one, a thousand people came to the front of the auditorium and asked him for forgiveness. It was such a stirring experience that at the end of it, he looked at them and said, "I love you. I love you. I love you." His attempt to express Christian love in a difficult circumstance was a bit shaky, but he got started.
Take heart. In this challenge of Christian love, we are not alone. There are thousands, perhaps millions, of fellow Christians who are also taking steps to get better at expressing the love of Jesus. The Spirit of God is engaged with us. God is in us. We merely need to get started and do it. We'll be amazed at what God will add in value to our efforts.
Principle #2: Start small
When it comes to loving as a Christian, teachers may encourage us to start really big. The challenge sounds something like this (I've probably said this myself!): "Think of the person whom you most hate in the whole world. Yes, think of that person who did you in, wounded you deeply, and betrayed your trust. There isn't another person you resent as much as this one individual. All right, this week go out and love them."
I don't know what that does for you, but it makes me feel guilty and rotten. I'm quite sure that most of us, if forced into this situation, would fail the test.
Copyright © 2006 Leith Anderson.