What Happens When We Think Love is Synonymous With Evangelism?
“Real love, however, is always the process of meeting needs.” – John Lynch.
In a recent article, I talked about how I was invited by some friends to spend time with them in a venue that happened to be a brothel. The response was mostly positive and most people understood the article was not about evangelism, it was about how we love other people where they are at, and how sometimes that means being with them in situations, that many can misinterpret.
However, I made an interesting discovery from the people who didn’t understand the point of the article. Many of them didn’t see any “Ministry value,” to the article, and decided to dismiss it out right, or criticize me for not doing more to put a stop to the blight of prostitution. At this point I realized, that in the minds of many Christians, what they mean by love is synonymous with evangelism.
Somewhere along the road, Christians decided that love and evangelism means the same thing. So loving the world means evangelizing the world, and loving our believing brothers and sisters means to evangelize them over to our particular understanding of doctrine. Needless to say, the fall out from this false dichotomy has been the constant infighting, the divisions and ultimately thousands of denominations. And most of all, the unbelieving world looks at our sour misrepresentation of love, and decides that they want nothing to do with it.
Now, as all my evangelical friends will now rise up and say in unison, “But Brook, salvation is the greatest need! So getting people saved is how we truly love people.” While I understand the sentiment, I never said that love does not include evangelism; in fact, I believe they often overlap.
What I said was, that love does not mean evangelism exclusively. Unfortunately, even if we don’t admit it, the Church often thinks it does. A husband does not evangelize his wife, he loves his wife. Christians are not called to evangelize other believing Christians, we are called to love them. A father and mother do not evangelize their children, they love them. Unfortunately, if something doesn’t appear to have “Ministry value,” or Evangelistic Outreach, we are quick to dismiss it.
One of the occasions where Jesus actual stressed that intimacy with him was more important that service to others, was the story of Mary and Martha. The account in Luke 10:38-42, where Martha tried to get Jesus to rebuke her sister Mary, for having left her to serve the house alone, while she did nothing but sat at Jesus’ feet. To which Jesus responded:
Luke 10:41 – 42 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
The Apostle Paul also made this distinction between all his outward services and love, as recounted in 1 Corinthians 13. The Apostle Paul lists out all the external things that he can perform in ministry and manifestations of the spirit, and yet, he never equated any of them as being synonymous with love. Instead, he made the case that a person can do all ministry and have all manifestations without love, and it would profit them nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
This single misconception is the reason that most Christians failed to understand my article. Where many of them saw a need to do ministry in the brothel, I choose to love my friends. Just as Martha sought to rebuke Mary for what appeared to be her laziness and missed opportunity to serve, in the same way many Christians seek to rebuke me for not taking the opportunity to minister in the brothel. And to them I say simply, that I fully embraced the better path of loving my friends, unconditionally, and I’m a peace with that.
John Lynch speaking about What if we have been wrong about God.