Aren’t those words comforting? I suppose the first time I heard them, at least that I can remember, was when the Beatles released their song, All You Need Is Love, back in 1967. It was a song aimed at uniting people all over the world with the idea that nothing was stronger than love.
The problem is that the notion was a fabrication of John Lennon’s mind, not God’s mind, but it hasn’t stopped the contemporary church in many cases from adopting it. There are various labels for the many faces of churches throughout history, and today the lines have become blurred between what is real and what is relevant.
Few people who follow the sways of the Church could say they have never heard of the emergent church. The confusion comes when you try to define the emergent or emerging church of today. While it can be described with myriad conflicting terms, there are a few things that come to the forefront.
This emerging emergent church appears to divorce itself from any type of a traditional image. This means many times that it must have lively, contemporary worship with no hymnals, a pastor who wears jeans, a shirt hanging out, and a goatee, an atmosphere that screams we are not judgmental in any way, and an approach to discussion that involves dialogue devoid of propositional truth.
It seeks to view Christianity through a lens that only encompasses God’s love and nothing else. When these people quote the scripture that God is love, they really mean it! As a matter of fact, He is nothing but love! There is a sway away from the God of the Bible who is both Judge and Love to a god who is basically whatever you need him to be.
This severely misses the mark, which by the way is the underlying meaning of the Greek word for “sin.” It might interest the Church to know that the very passage that epitomizes God’s love, John 3, is also the passage that sheds light on what loving God is all about.
John 3:36 in the New American Standard reads, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Some versions translate the Greek word in the second half of the verse as “does not obey” while others translate it as “believe.” Before declaring a position, one should always research the word. In this instance, the word is often used in scripture to denote someone who is not just in disbelief but one who does not follow a certain belief.
Of course, in the Scriptures it is used to denote those who do not obey the Christian teachings. This aligns with Matthew’s Great Commission passage where Christians are instructed to teach others to obey Jesus’ commandments. In John 3:36, it is making a contrast between the one who does not believe in Jesus to the point of following Him and the one who changes his or her life to align with those beliefs. In other words, the words of James 1:21-25 would be a fitting context for what God’s love for us demands:
“21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
While the emerging church seems to have an aversion to propositional truth, it seems clear that Scripture makes the proposition: To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15:22 KJV).
While bringing the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, the new emerging church might want to consider merging obedience into their program as well.