The Lens of Love

How we see God, the world, and each other certainly is shaped by on our own personal experiences and deeply held convictions. If I were to read a story aloud to a group and then ask what stood out the most – what captured their attention; there’s a strong likelihood each person would answer differently (even if only slightly). Our past, upbringing, biology, current life-situations, etc. construct vision-altering lenses over our minds and hearts, rendering us anything but neutral when it comes to taking in information. I’m not at all saying there’s no way to know truth because of this. But I am saying truth must be relayed from a source higher and more eternal than ourselves if it is to be trustworthy and not shot-through with our own bias.

Allow me to give an example of how this has taken form in recent days. The last blog post I wrote was intended completely and totally to relay a sense of personal humility and brokenness over my own inability to do the work only God can do. The responses to the post were far from unified. In fact, I would put the responses into three categories:

  1. Some understood my words the way I intended them – as an admission to Jesus’s truth, “I am the vine and you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” I came at it from the the angle that I should have never considered myself able or qualified to such a task as shepherding a church – for a church is an impossible reality apart from supernatural intervention. My church is impossible and I’m incapable! Or, as Paul said it, “Who is sufficient for these things (2 Corinthians 2:16)?” So the defeated feeling I spoke of was a coming to the end of myself but never to the end of God’s possibilities for us and through us!
  2. Some understood my blog as a lament of personal frustration. I would be lying if I said that pastoring wasn’t frustrating at times or that people’s sins and idols (including my own) kept our church from progressing into Christ-likeness. But the complaint (or better, lament) was nothing more than the expression Paul had towards the Galatians when he wrote of the labor pains and waiting for Christ to be formed in the church (Galatians 4:19). Or the concern that maybe his labor was in vain and taking no effect (Galatians 4:11). In other words, a pastor who loves his people is pained along the way and hoping truth will “stick”. But even the “sticking” is not something the pastor can control and that can hurt our pride. Especially if your pastor is from a business management background and is used to judging his work by tangible report cards. So I appreciate the kind words and affirmation from many sweet and gentle members. It was humbling and it reminded me to say again that our people are a noble and kind people. But the best place your pastor (or yourself, for that matter) could be is weak and unable. ” But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).” Thank you for responding in kindness, many of you, but be encouraged that weakness is good for both pastor and church.
  3. Some misunderstood and responded with frustration.* I’ve combed over the article several times and can see, in small part, how one might misunderstand (if you didn’t take me up on or believe me in my praise for the kindness and nobility of our congregation, perhaps). And if you’re not an attender here I should tell you that you’re missing out on a community-invested church with a rich history of ministry! The truth is that my post was seen through a lens foreign to my own. It was read as ,”You people are impossible!” Though it was not worded that way nor explained that way. But again, I should have remembered what a good friend recently reminded me of, “If it can be misunderstood, it will be.”

So, most clearly I want to communicate that if any readers understood my statements in the third sense (mentioned above) then it was never my intention to belittle or smear my church. Though I tried to make that clear, it appears I failed to some degree.

With that said, I also want to remind my readers that we have been given new lenses through which we see and interpret each other – the lens of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 lists the various expressions of love as we’re pretty familiar with. But one phrase sticks out to me. “Love believes all things.” It doesn’t mean love believes any old thing – in a brain-dead, gullible fashion. But the phrase does mean that love has an almost naively positive interpretation when it comes to understanding each other. To put it another way, love believes the best about a person. Or as I said it before, love gives the best-possible interpretation when in doubt. This is hard to keep in mind and practice even in your family! It would do wonders in my marriage and parenting to get in the loving discipline of assuming the best about my family. The same is true for church family.

So whatever has shaped your perception of the world, God the Father, church, pastors, or people in general… we have been given (by grace) a new set of lenses whereby we can love more profoundly. As part of a subset to the commandment to “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14) we should include “put on the lenses of love” to our daily routine as well. We should not look for offense in each other but look for the best possible interpretation towards each other. In doing so we live by the highest law – Christ’s law – the law of love.

*Thank you to those who pointed out the areas of my blog that provided opportunity for misunderstanding. It will help me hone in on better communication going forward but I can assure all who read this that my aim was to exalt God’s power over our inabilities and impossibilities.