Dan did a great job yesterday pointing at the dog's breakfast which Donald Miller recently shared regarding his view of the local church. However, because my hiatus is actually in large part about the local church in a very huge way for me personally, I have a few hundred words to add to the topic.
Let me start here, which is to say where the Apostle John started:
By this [that is: the sacrifice of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit] is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4)Right? And just in case someone thinks that John means, "we ought to love them in theory and by some kind of epithetical formality, but not anyone personally," he also said this:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3)Not in talk or just with words, but in deed and truth. That is: you should do something with this love you allegedly know and receive.
What that means is this: because we know what love is in Christ's death for us, it's a necessary consequence that we actually love people. But look at the qualifier that John makes in that statement: "He loved us first."
He loved us FIRST.
Think about how that works. The "first" means "before we were perfect and holy." That is: God loved us while we were still sinners. And John's call to love is to love "brothers" -- which here means "those who have seen God and know Him.
John's call, then, is primarily (though perhaps not exclusively) to love the people in the church you are in, without regard to how perfected they are right now.
That's what causes us to understand how fraudulent the claim that one can love Jesus but not any specific local church is: John says those who cannot do this are liars, and they have never seen God.
Because I am on hiatus, and I am really up to my armpits with things related to that, that's where I'm going to leave it with you: have you seen God? Are you not a liar? Then love the people God loves -- not in theory or merely with words, but truly, with your stuff, and with your person.