Saturday, April 2, 2011

AWOL Christians - Introduction

AWOL Christians - Introduction:

Why do so many in the world look at believers so critically? Some call us hypocrites and rejoice in pointing out just how un-Christ-like some of our behaviors are. Others point to a lack of unity in the church – our wide variety of doctrinal disagreements, hence the hundreds of denominations. Is this holding us back from completing the Great Commission that Jesus directed us to perform? What lies at the foundation of our difficulties in winning more souls? What really is the root of all this?

Jesus gave us “the greatest commandment” in Matthew 22:37-38:

"you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Do you believe you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? And do you love your neighbor(s) as you love your very own existence and being? Most of us probably feel as though we do a pretty good job in these areas. It is quite easy to say we walk the love walk, but do our actions and how we present ourselves to the world back up those words? Are the ways in which we treat others going to bring them into the kingdom or make them think twice about being a part of such a disingenuous group? Someone once said, “Perception is everything.”

As Brennan Manning has expressed it:

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable."

Are we examples of God’s love to all of our ‘neighbors’ or just a select few? Are we even walking the true love walk with those closest to us, those to whom we make sure we speak the words, “I love you” often? When the military commanders in various countries find that one of their service men or women are not present at their assigned base or outpost, they may declare them A.W.O.L. or Absent WithOut Leave (or in the case of some countries, Absent Without Official Leave). When a soldier or sailor or marine is AWOL it means that he or she is no longer acting in accordance with the prime directive of their branch of the military, which is to serve their country and follow the orders of their leader. This AWOL service man or woman has elected to “go their own way”, neglecting the commands given them. They are not in good standing with their commanders and have forfeited many of the rights and privileges of their rank and position in that branch of the service.

As soldiers in the army of Christ, we too have a prime directive. And in the very same way as our nation’s military men and women, if we Christians neglect the commands of our Leader, and no longer act in accordance with the prime directive of the Christian religion as presented in the Word of God, we can no longer be considered in good standing with our Commander, Father God. If we “go our own way”, we forfeit rights and privileges given to us in the covenant God made with man. We then can be considered AWOL as Christians. This concept does not really apply to nonbelievers. In order for military personnel to be considered AWOL they must first have enrolled in the military. In the same way, for us to be considered as AWOL Christians we must first have accepted Jesus as our Lord and joined the army of Christ.

The AWOL I will be discussing in this writing is not a rejection of Christ and the entire Christian walk but instead refers to times when we, as believers, are violating our prime directive as directed to us by Jesus in John 15: “These things I command you, that you love one another” (v. 17). You see, in this examination I am not speaking to those who leave Christianity behind (or those who have never found it to begin with). I want to talk about those Christians who are living lives of faith and are determined that they are good Christians, but are A.W.O.L. (Acting WithOut Love). These are the folks who are not really acting in accordance with the “prime directive” as commanded by Jesus. Am I talking to and about myself? Most definitely! This study has shown me numerous situations and times when I have not acted with love! Times that have created in me a desire to change, to walk the love walk as Jesus commanded. Am I talking to you? That’s for you to discover as we discuss this topic. I hope you will let the words that follow speak to your spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind occasions when you are acting without love. The first step toward making a change is the realization that we need to change. It is my desire to help us come to the realization that we all act without love at times. Then we can make the necessary changes in our lives to grow and develop our love walk. We can do a better job of loving others. And then we can more completely follow the commandment of love Jesus gave us.

We are about to embark on a journey of self-examination. We will look closely at what distinguishes the agape form of love God personifies from our worldly ideas of love. We’ll check out the characteristics and benefits of biblical love and examine examples of love in the lives of past saints. Finally we will make special note of our responsibilities in living a life of love. It is time to hold the mirror up and do a critical check of our lives, our motives, and our behaviors. Are we following Jesus? Are we really? Could it be that we are unaware that we are truly AWOL? To follow Jesus means to obey His supreme command. Hold the mirror up with me. Let’s take a good long look and honestly ask, “Am I AWOL?” It is a special mirror that will help us look deep within. We may find some not so pretty things in our search, but if we let Him, Jesus can change us and we can then become A.W.L. (Acting With Love) Christians and be examples of God’s love to others.

After all, that is the supreme command.

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