Biblical faith is dynamic and life-changing. More than mere intellectual assent, it requires trusting God, placing our confidence in him, and following him obediently. A friend of mine, Ned Campbell, organized a four-week Bible study called “I Believe” to challenge our church to think more deeply about what we believe and why we believe it. For the final week of the study, Ned thought it would be helpful to review some historical creeds. In independent churches like ours we don’t adhere to creedal statements. We choose instead to “speak where the Bible speaks” and “be silent where the Bible is silent.” We have “no creed but Christ.” Yet, it’s helpful to examine core doctrines the church has affirmed throughout the centuries. For example, the Apostles’ Creed dating back to the second century A.D. uses only 105 words to sum up basic Christian beliefs about God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); the virgin birth; Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and other key points.
In the course of his study Ned made a surprising discovery. In an e-mail he pointed out, “Interestingly enough, the word love is not found in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed or the Chalcedonian Creed.” Ned also examined the belief statement posted on our church’s own website (which is typical of doctrinal summaries used by other Bible-believing Christian churches) and he noticed the same glaring omission.
I found Ned’s discovery quite eye-opening. How could Christians write a document designed to tell the world what we believe and somehow leave out love? In my e-mail back to Ned, I said, “Somehow we have managed not to call attention to the very thing Jesus said is the distinguishing mark of his followers—what the apostle Paul called ‘the greatest of these’!” Ned responded simply, “God is love. God loves all people. God desires us to love him. God desires us to love each other (our families, our neighbors, strangers—even our enemies).”
Remember what Jesus called the greatest commandments? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). What makes us effective ambassadors of reconciliation? “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). What motivated Paul and Silas to leave the comforts of home and preach Christ in Europe? What moved the new convert Lydia to show gracious hospitality to the apostles (Acts 16:13-15)? Despite their bruises after being “severely flogged” a few hours before (v. 23), why did Paul and Silas share the gospel of Christ with the jailer and his family so they could be saved (vv. 31-33)? What motivated the jailer to serve his former prisoners a meal when he barely had dried off from his own baptism (v. 34)? The love of God was at work!
It’s important to believe and teach the right things, and that includes trusting in God’s unselfish, sacrificial love for every person. The Great Commission requires us to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them (Matthew 28:18-20), and that includes everything Jesus taught about loving others, whoever and wherever they may be. If we believe the truth but forget to love, that would be a tragic omission indeed.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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