What if you had to describe Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in just one word? What would you choose? Would it be truth? worship? community? It’s tough, isn’t it? I think if I were pressed to choose just one word, it would be love. Actually, Gospel love. Gospel love sums up everything we believe and drives every part of our mission.
Why Gospel love? Of course there are people all over the world showing remarkable love to others. But Gospel love is different for two reasons: its source and its motivation. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It is only because Christ rescued us that we are in a relationship with him at all, and our response to his rescuing love is to do all we can to show our love and gratitude to him in the way we relate to him and others – including our enemies.
Gospel love is different for two reasons: its source and its motivation.
What does Gospel love look like? In 1 John 3:16 we read, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” When young Amy Carmichael responded to a friend who asked about her life as a missionary, she responded with, “Missionary living is a chance to die…” When we follow God, we die to all the things that would separate us from him and from each other. Self-righteousness, selfish ambition, love of others’ approval, acceptance, the illusion of power, the deceptive love of money. As we turn away from those things and worship God alone, we do what we were made to do: to love him!
And then we turn this love outward. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Our love for him, for our families, for our neighbors, and especially for our enemies is a reflection of Christ’s love as we lay down our lives for each other for his sake. We recognize our enemies as fellow image-bearers and seek ways to pray for, serve, and bless those with whom we may disagree or even those who persecute us. The sacrificial love of God compels us to this response as we know that God desires to use us to bring his Gospel love to rescue those who are perishing.
John Calvin said this regarding the primacy of the Gospel:
“Without the Gospel everything is useless and vain; without the Gospel we are not Christians; without the Gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the Gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.”*
Because we believe in the primacy of the Gospel at LMPC, we desire to let all people know that it is the power of God for salvation and the only hope for ourselves, our city, and our world. My prayer is that we might never lose the core identity of being “Gospel love” people.
*from Calvin’s preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament