Monday, September 1, 2008

Love is Not Enough

One of the hazards of young love is the notion that love, in and of itself, is enough to hold two people together for a lifetime (if that annoying song by The Captain and Tennille is ringing through your skull at this point, I apologize). The fact is that love, in and of itself, does not have the power to do that. As Larry Norman poigniantly observed: "The Beatles said all you need is love and then they broke up..."

What is true of romantic love (and The Beatles) is also true concerning the powerful feelings of Christian love shared between people in the life of the church. The recipe for the goop that cements lives together long term must include love, of course. But along with "sincere love" (Romans 12: 9; I Peter 1:22) the recipe must also include healthy portions of deeply shared values, commonly held beliefs and a mutual sense of mission. Without these things, love alone will lose its luster and the bonds between people will weaken and even break down altogether.

These things are on my mind a lot as I lead in the launch of a demanding and radical new ministry endeavor called the Vineyard Community Mission Network. Our core group mostly consists of people who have come to deeply love each other (and me) as a result of our lives together at the Crown Valley Vineyard. As much as I appreciate the power of these bonds and respect the trust these folks have shown in me as a leader, I am also aware that love will not be enough to harness us to our mission. Love alone is not capable of energizing us to mutually accept its demands or fulfill its potential. For this to happen, our people have to buy into a different philosophy of ministry, a new set of beliefs and values and a distinct new routine (way of life) if they are going to make it through the crucible of change together.

For this reason, I have strived to not only communicate a new vision, but to also educate people about the values, facts, philosophy and scriptural keys that inform this vision. Now that a month has passed between the loss of our former point of church identity and the implementation of our new mission, I can feel the transitional strain testing some of our people. As I note this, I am convinced that those who take the time and trouble to thoroughly investigate the new paradigm I have been promoting and buy into it will likely be with us months or years from now. Those who don't won't. It's that simple.

The good news is that these are decisions that will be made in spite of our enduring love for each other and not only because of it. That's because love is not, in and of itself, a commitment. It can only lead us to the point of making commitments (or choosing not to). Togetherness, mutuality and long term commeraderie are based on things that go beyond "mere" love.

Those who have already opted out of our new endeavor, or who will do so in the future, will most likely still love me a great deal. And, of course, I will still love them, too. Love, after all, always perseveres (I Corinthians 13:7). But if we are going to embrace the changes, the sacrifices and the exciting possibilities of our new endeavor, we will need a lot more than love.


Charity Leslie said...

It's interesting that you write this blog from the point-of-view of love. I've been pondering on and writing about love all weekend. I will start sharing some of my thoughts on my blog. I'm beginning by reflecting on singleness and that love relationship with God-

I've found it to be true that the kind of love that loses its lustre is not sincere love. The selfish need fulfilled or the thirst for relational-entertainment satiated, the bored party moves on to the next trendy Church or friend. Charity never fails. As long as people are allowed to meet on the ground of commonality and call it 'Church,' the Church will remain no more than a social club, essentially ineffectual, making up its own rules, electing it own officials. I think that brotherly love in it's most sincere state has hardly been witnessed in the world. There is always some other motive, some other driving force.

I think that the values, beliefs and missions of the Church are about the only thing holding it together. I think we have those in spades. It's real, selfless, 'brother's keeper' love (charity) that we're missing. I think that most people do what they know they should do out of a personal love for Christ, but not necessarily out of a deep love and concern for the Brethren.

Most of the people at CVV did not have an enduring love for me, although they did appreciate me in certain ways (I'm not hurt because the feeling is mutual). I will miss seeing some people, but for the most part I haven't even blinked about it. In the 2 1/2 years that I've been a part of the the body as a single woman from out of state, few people in our body of Believers have asked me to dinner or invited me over for holidays or even thought twice about my practical needs. I'm cool with that, but I've learned a lot about women who are not cool with that. I realize now that there is no care or brotherly love shown to singles at all. What do they do on their b-days, for example? I have grown very close to a handful of people who actually care about me in return. I truly love those and intercede for them. I would argue with anyone who said that CVV or any other church for that matter experiences proper Christian charity regularly among its membership. If we did, the world would know us by our love... and they don't right now.

Love may not be the only thing, but it is the greatest of the things that will remain (I Cor. 13). All of the values, beliefs and missions mean nothing without it, and, frankly, I don't think we have nearly enough of it yet to start thinking past it. (Once we do have it, we won't have to worry about common values, beliefs and missions; people will be flocking into our meetings to do whatever work the Lord is doing in our midst.)

Bill Faris said...

For reasons that are obvious in both the depth and honest of Charity's writing and the quality of the writing itself, I'm adding her to my blog list.

In regards to the comments themselves, I certainly cannot gainsay your experiences. They speak for themselves. Nor can I disagree that more love, expressed in action and not only in word, would greatly enhance the church's witness to her Lord, the Lord of life and love.

And, I'll even concede that I Corinthians 13 reminds us that generous acts and dazzling gifts are hollow and empty without love no matter how "missional" we might think we are.

Still, I maintain that love needs to be anchored in truth, in understanding, and in mission if it is to fully bloom. I think this is because(true)love is not static. It has an energy in itself that always seeks expression. What is it the writer of Proverbs says: "open rebuke is better than secret love" (Prov. 27: 5).

I guess your thoughts make me ask the twin questions: "what is responsible for the lackluster 'love' you describe"? and "what is it that would release the sincere, unselfish love" you also describe? Any thoughts?