The most egregious problem with today’s black church is its lack of love. Without love, we are powerless. Without love, we are in bondage. Pettiness is bondage. Childishness is bondage. Impatience, beloved, is bondage. If we had it—God’s love—it would show. There’d be some evidence in our lives of God’s peace, of His love for us. So much love that we’d want to share it. The dynamics of these places are so antithetical to the personal example of Jesus Christ that I can hardly qualify them as churches. Welcome to The Matrix. A place that seems real, that seems reasonable, but is in fact a lie.
If I have to start someplace, and I suppose I do,
the most egregious problem with today’s black
church is its lack of love. The lack of love is the first and
most obvious sign that a person does not know Jesus Christ. And
I don't care if that person’s title is “bishop” or “apostle” or
the new, really stupid one, “Pastor Apostle.” Paul said, “...but
[without] love, I am nothing...” [I Cor 13:2]. You don’t need
any special spiritual gift, no extra discernment, no spiritual
training, no crystal ball: anyone who does not demonstrate the
love of Jesus Christ does not know Jesus Christ. It really is
just that simple to tell who is a Christian and who is just
going through the motions.
Love is more than just being nice to somebody. When I talk about love, particularly God’s love, I am not talking about a smiling face and a handshake, a Praise Da Lawd in the frozen food aisle at Wal-Mart. Love, as Jesus practiced it, was substantive. Which means it wasn’t just about lip service. It was about sacrifice. It was about denying self. In everything we do, every choice or plan we make, as Christians, it should be our desire, first and foremost, to please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God [Heb 11:6]. The absence of love suggests the absence of Christ and the absence of Christ suggests a faithless existence.
Love is our super-power.
is the stuff Keanu Reeves used to stop those bullets in The Matrix. It’s The Force from Star Wars. Love, not
faith, is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal, and one that
is rarely preached about and even more rarely used. Church Folk
tend to go from zero to ornery in about a heartbeat. We tend to
run our mouths too much, blurting out every unexpressed thought
the moment it pops into our heads. Like small children, we fuss
and we feud and we scheme and we fight over trivialities—sheep
and land—when, at the end of the day, we own none of those
things—they all belong to God. Love puts an end to all that. If
we had it—God’s love—it would show. There’d be some evidence in
our lives of God’s peace, of His love for us. So much love that
we’d wan to share it. But, when I’m around Church Folk, more
often than not I am walking on eggshells. Like small children,
Church Folk will lose their mind at the drop of a hat. Visiting
a church you’re not familiar with is particularly nerve-wracking
as Church Folk tend to stare, to approach you with caution if
they approach at all. Which leaves me scratching my head,
wondering what the pastor is teaching these people. I mean,
where’s the love?
Without love, we are powerless. Without love, we are defeated. Without love, we are in bondage. Pettiness is bondage. Childishness is bondage. Impatience, beloved, is bondage.
If the church functioned the way it was designed, we’d all sell everything, pool the money, and provide for one another according to our needs. This sounds a lot like communism, but this is the biblical model from Acts Chapter 2. If we really lived by biblical example, thousands of us would put all our money in a pot and build housing for everyone, a fleet of cars parked with the keys in them, shared by everybody. No child of God would be hungry. No Christian would suffer in poverty.
But, of course, that’s not gonna happen. We love our cars, our homes, our money. As a result, we are in bondage to those things. Debt, beloved, is bondage. It is not biblical [Rom 13:8]. Mortgages are bondage. Car notes are bondage. And most of us spend far too much time and energy servicing those debts and not nearly enough time growing in grace and doing what God has commanded for our lives. We wouldn’t be so concerned about the collapse of the U.S. economy if we weren’t so invested in it. Poor folk aren’t concerned about the economy collapsing, their economy collapsed years ago. Homeless folk exist outside such concerns, as survival becomes their main focus.
To know Christ, to truly know Him, is to be homeless. You may have a house, but that building is not your home. It is, at best, a distraction: an illusion and a pale imitation of the good things God has in store for us. Yet we invest more time and energy and money in that house than we do in our actual home—our eternal home with God. If you bought more house than you can afford, that, by definition, is bondage. It is an investment in a substitute reality wherein we govern ourselves the way the world does and we model our behavior after the accepted norms of this world, a condition we can rightfully compare to The Matrix.
The Matrix, for the three people who have not seen the blockbuster film trilogy, posits the notion that reality as we know it is actually a carefully constructed illusion designed to entertain our minds while artificial intelligence machines use our bodies as living batteries to power themselves. The Matrix church, by syllogistic argument, likewise creates a blasphemous, artificial environment which claims to be a Christian organism while embodying almost none of the qualities of Christ. The Matrix church, much like the Matrix in the movie, exists to leech money off its membership. It exists mainly to congratulate itself on existing.