I haven’t written a summary of the last section of John M. Perkins’ book Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development yet. However, I wanted to share this paragraph from chapter 12, “Discerning the Call”, because it speaks very clearly about what God is currently teaching me:
So the biblical evidence overwhelmingly states that the will of God is to love him in a way that leaves no room for idols, and to love our neighbors in a way that liberates them from poverty and oppression, either spiritual or physical. Most of us don’t see the commandment to love our neighbor as having anything to do with dealing with physical needs. But this is primarily because we have allowed the culture in which we live to redefine the word love for us. The love that we talk about now is a lollipop; it’s a smile and a “God bless you!” The love of Jesus, the love he intends for us to show to our neighbors, is much tougher than this. In his first epistle, the apostle John say that our love should be of the same quality as Jesus’ love for us, that we get our definition of love not from our feelings or our culture but from the cross. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16 NASB).
Thank you, Mr. Perkins. John wrote something else in that same epistle that goes along with this (the very next verse, as a matter of fact):
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? (1 John 3:17 ESV)
And, of course, this convicting verse:
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8 ESV)
hmmmm… We cannot know if God’s love is in us by what we say (regardless of how eloquent our speech or how often we preach) nor by what we write (regardless of how many readers we have or how many times we’ve been published).
We can know if God’s love is in us by noticing whether or not we sacrificially (laying down our lives) love others. That’s a difficult (but biblical) test.