Thirty years ago, my wife Mary Ellen and I had just moved to Las Vegas to work as church planters with the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board.) One of the hardest things about moving to a new place was finding someone to cut my hair. Because, you know, I want to look GOOD. So I kept putting it off until I had begun to look like Chewbacca.
I finally gave up and went to one of those shops you find in strip malls. The stylist was friendly, and we struck up a conversation. Since I speak in a STRONG southern accent, she asked where I was from, and what had brought us to Vegas. So I told her that we had moved there to start a new church. (That’s usually where these conversations quickly ended.) But she asked me another question...
“What kind of church?”
She stopped and thought for a minute, and then said something I’ll never forget.
“Oh, I’ve heard of you guys. You’re the guys who don’t drink and don’t dance, right?”
I laughed, because most of the Baptists I knew did drink, and most of them did dance - especially when they were drinking.
But after I left, I began to think about what she said. She had defined me by what she thought I was against, not what I was for.
That still happens today. Often. If you ask the average person on the street to describe Christians, it will probably not be very positive. You are much more likely to be described in terms of what you are against.
I HATE THAT!
I want to be known for what I’m FOR, not what I’m AGAINST.
So here is a short, incomplete list, of what, as a Christ-follower, I am FOR:
I am for LOVE. Jesus said that the most important of commandments was to love God and love people. In John 13:35, He said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.” In I Corinthians 13, Paul wrote that the greatest thing in the world is love. He taught that all of my words would be nothing more than noise, and all my sacrifice would be nothing more than trash, if they were not the product of love.
I am for love, because I need love! I need a love that won’t let go; a love with no strings attached. That’s how God loves me, and that’s how I want to love Him and love others. I want to love like Jesus loved.
2. I am for GRACE. We live in such a critical culture. We are so ready to write people off for their bad decisions. We move way beyond disagreement into condemnation. That was not Jesus’ way. In John 8, a mob drags a woman to Jesus and throws her at His feet. “She was caught in adultery. The Law says to stone her. What do you say?” You remember His answer, don’t you. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Ouch. One by one the members of the mob walked away until only Jesus and the woman were left. And His words to her with saturated with grace - “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.” In John 3, Jesus clearly tells us that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.
I have experienced so much grace in my own life. I want to be a conduit of grace for others.
3. I am for HOPE. I am so tired of Christians who only seem to espouse negativity and doom. I don’t think that’s how Jesus lived. He brought hope into every place He entered, and to every person He encountered. Over and over and over and over in scripture we are promised God’s peace and power and presence and protection. We have the promise that He is greater than all I see. He is greater than my circumstances. He is greater than my fear.
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
I am for love.
I am for grace.
I am for hope.
What are you for?