Tonight, the attendance of my Göttingen church’s weekly Bible study seemed to be higher than ever – approaching nearly how many people we have on a normal Sunday. Led by my good friend Jayeel over John 15:16-20 – in a room filled with people from Germany, China, Cameroon, India, the Philippines, and more – the meeting was simply on fire.
In an attempt to share some of the best thoughts and stories from tonight with others, as well as to simply have these on record for myself, I’m writing a blog about it while it’s all still fresh!
16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another. 18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
As we talked about bearing fruit, we came to the conclusion that the main fruit is love and that any fruit borne without love is not a good fruit. So we began discussing what exactly the love of God is and looks like. Upon the idea that God is love, someone brought up the idea that loving takes three parts – the giver of love, the receiver of love, and love itself. Piggy-backing off of that, someone brought up St. Augustine’s idea that “God is love” not only separates Christianity from monotheism but also helps prove the Trinity. If God by Himself is love, then there must be someone receiving that love. Therefore, the Godhead embodies love in that He shares a perfect love between the persons of Himself. (Theoretically, I suppose that would make God the Father the giver of love, Christ the recipient, and the Spirit as the medium. But that’s aside from the point.)
We then talked about the different factors in life that work as hindrances from us loving people. Things were shared such as: prejudices, past hurts, lacking trust, differences, or what I found to be the most interesting response, that we begin a friendship and try to love but don’t know where else to go, what else to say, what else to do, and so the love’s growth is stunted. We then shared advice about how to overcome these hindrances, of which the main point was to try to view people as God sees them and to truly interact with them. I shared a piece of advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, that if you have trouble loving someone, or if you just straight up don’t like them, then pray for them. Keep praying for them, and soon you’ll see how hard it is to not like them.
Somewhere within this portion, a man brought up a story of a pastor’s conversation with his mother.
“Do you know about this Jesus guy?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied.
“Did you know that he died for us?” “Yes.”
“Did you know that he’s coming back for all of his children?” “Yes.”
“Did you know that those who don’t know him will go to hell?” “Yes.”
“Did you know that people who go to hell never get to leave?” “Yes.”
“Did you know that the fires in hell never go out?” “Yes.”
“You knew all of this, and yet never told me? You are a wicked son.”
We were then careful to define the words “hate” and “world” as they were being used. We agreed that “hate” had far less to do with any anger or emotion but had more akin to rejection. We did not find as clear of an agreement in defining “world,” but what I thought was the best definition was, “The world is any system (be it a religion, a movement, people, government, etc.) that rejects God and His sovereignty.” With these definitions, we understood that just because a people group or religion is kind or giving to you does not mean that Jesus was wrong. You see, if a group invites a Christian to join them but asks him to leave his Christian conversations or beliefs or morals behind, then regardless of how nice they are, they are in fact hating the Christian.
Someone then brought up another Bonhoeffer this quote. I can’t remember exactly the quote, but it meant this: that God finds His power through His “powerlessness”; that through being rejected and hated, Jesus conquered the world. This is just beautiful. And it’s the exact opposite of how humans tend to think. Get punched? Punch back! Get sued? Sue back! Want power? Find popularity and acceptance! God, in His sovereignty, works in the completely opposite way.
These were among the best points of a truly encouraging, engaging, Spirit-filled evening in a room filled with believers from all over the world. God is loving, God is moving.
The Conviction of the Fleshly Man – An Analysis of Romans 7