“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
— John 13:35
Some say that they don’t go to church because Christians are hypocrites. We could easily respond and say that we are all hypocrites to one degree or another, and that our accuser is simply making excuses. There is some truth to that. But they’re not wrong. I grew up in church, attended a Christian college, worked at bible camps, worked at a Christian college, worked full time leadership positions in a church, and now live on campus while attending Dallas Theological Seminary. At every place I’ve been I’ve seen Christians proclaiming faith from the pew and living the rest of their life as bitter, jealous, greedy, vindictive people, and this has included pastors. And it has included me. I’ve acted foolishly, been selfish, rude, legalistic, too liberal with my theology, and too tight fisted with my time. I am a hypocrite.
I am a sinner.
Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.” Keeping both this verse and the verse above it from John in mind, we should be very careful how we treat one another. Not because we don’t want the unbelieving world to look at us and think that we are un-believers, but because we are indeed unbelievers, sinners, and we want the unbelieving world to know that even though we are sinners, God is present with us when we gather, as forgiven, changed people.
That is a general principle that all Christians should keep in mind, loving one another with a humble heart, aware of our equality with everyone in fallenness, but seeking to display the new creature we have become through the work of Christ.
But for those of us in Seminary, especially those of us who live on campus, we are in constant danger. The teaching that we are being given is a powerful blessing, one that can very easily twist us into something very Christ-less. We must be careful not to lose perspective during our time here at seminary. I’ve seen selfishness and bitterness while living on campus expressed through chippy, sarcastic all-building emails, legalistic grandstanding, selfish me-first moments, and occasional blatant dishonesty. And in those moments when I saw it, I found it all too easy to give in to that desire to feel contempt for those horrible, awful, so-called Christian leaders who should just leave. But how easily could I have been just the same? Too easily.
Too easy. It is too easy to shout with our mouths, “Gospel! Gospel! Gospel!” And to whisper with our hearts, “Me…me…me.”
The life of a seminarian is all too often hard on all fronts, school, work, family, self. It can be a grind that wears you down, shrinking all of your margins until you are, in regards to the outside world, a hypocrite waiting to happen. It breaks my heart to think that there are some that may say to themselves, of me, “sure, he loves Jesus, but he doesn’t love me.” We are not alone. Our churches are infected with inconsistent Christians and we all struggle with the same symptoms of My Will over Thy Will. When we leave Seminary we will be going out as leaders into this very environment.
So what do we do?
Pray and read the Word. And mean it. If we’re not daily in prayer and the Word, we’re not going to last. Or worse, perhaps we will, as a near lifeless husk of who we should be. It is all too easy to let our classes stand as our time with God. Don’t make this mistake.
Go out of your way to display to your Christian brothers and sisters a selfless, kind, thoughtful love. And make a habit of critiquing yourself in this regard. Make this behavioral push a part of your prayer life as well.
Seek forgiveness and reconciliation whenever necessary. Let’s face it. We’re all going to be guilty of being loveless fools at some point in our lives, repent and reconcile as if your life depended on it. Perhaps it does.
Don’t be afraid to do what you can to lovingly (this includes tactfully) call out loveless brothers and sisters, even if all you can do is pray.
Find a select few, maybe even only one, who will call you out in your lovelessness. If you don’t have anyone in your life who will do this for you, then you’re in trouble. Find someone and treasure them (Proverbs 27:6).
Seek the good of your Christian community, in a real, practical sense.
Get on a prayer team.
Volunteer to help new residents move in our out.
Ask fellow residents how they’re doing, and mean it (this may mean five minutes of your precious time goes to someone you barely know).
Make meals for new parents or for people suffering.
Offer to watch someone else’s kids to give them a date night.
No matter how much I say on this topic, it would never be enough. So for those of us living as growing leaders in Seminary, especially on campus, let’s love the hell out of each other. Let’s do whatever we can, whenever we can, to love each other. If we don’t, then the world will never believe Our Gospel, or worse, perhaps some will.
By Colby Anderson. Having just recently discovered the joys of coffee, pickles, sharp cheddar cheese, and fatherhood, you can find him attending Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Theology, which, of course, comes secondary to the continued pursuit of his Beautiful wife. And all of this under Christ, even the pickles. If you’re curious, he sometimes has time to think aloud at more-than-bread.blogspot.com.