We are about to embark on an attempt to identify and articulate our core values as a church.  This week we get an overview of the summer.  Below are the core values the session identified for our church.  After this week, we will examine them one by one. Today, however, I want to examine the foundational beliefs that undergird all of them.  


Here is the list the session generated:


“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2


“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us, for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry, you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your partnership with them and with all others” 2 Corinthians 9:11-13

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you as a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’’” Matthew 25:37-40

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7


“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:1-2


“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35


“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

All these values are well represented historically and secularly. Christians did not invent moral or ethical behavior. It is quite possible to be moral and ethical without being Christian. These values do not ‘make us’ Christians. In of themselves, in the Venn diagram of human experience, there is a great deal of overlap between Christian values and secular ones. The ancient Greeks developed a philosophical ethical system called ‘virtue ethics’.  Character and virtue were more important than obedience in evoking ‘good’ consequences. A modern-day equivalent (and one well represented in Jesus’ teaching) would be ‘the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law’.  What we do claim as unique is the inspiration of such values as well as the mechanism by which it is possible to live them.

As Christians, we believe these values, and the behaviors they encourage, are the organic response to the confidence that we are deeply loved.  We do not espouse these values to become a Christian, we live them because we are a Christian. These are not obligatory mandates; they are grateful responses to the experience and trust that we are loved. I say as often as I can: “The first task of a Christian is to learn to receive love.  Service, compassion, hospitality, etc. come second—because they flow out of being loved. If we separate the core values from their foundation, we run the risk of turning these values into a ‘to do’ list for good Christians rather than grateful responses for the love that is offered to us.

Anyone who has felt such love, however briefly, knows that at least for a time, we cannot be the same person.  Love transforms and enables.  But even this is not a strictly Christian belief. In fact, it is an ordinary, observable phenomena in real life.  Mary Lynn Darden has sent me a couple of contemporary quotes that reflect this thinking.  First, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.”  and second, “Love is never wasted because its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” The first is from Freud and the second from CS Lewis.  Very diverse thinkers see the same center of the diamond—through different facets.

If you need to be paid back, you will not be able to show compassion, serve, or even worship very long.  Loving is too hard to be sustainable if we are not first and continually loved. Jesus demonstrated a self-emptying love that ordinary humans can only point to.  He lived a presence to the people he encountered that we can provide only episodically. Jesus could take the risks of loving because he lived in a unique and constant relationship with God.  That relationship allowed him to be safe even when the world rejected and killed him.  Jesus, via the Holy Spirit offers us that same relationship. 

In real life, such love is remarkably difficult to receive, but when it happens you WANT to show hospitality, generosity, compassion, community, worship, love and service.  The difficulties and inconveniences that come with orienting our lives around these values will remain.  We will fail as often as we succeed. But we can grow in the experience of God’s love by following this path. 

Learn the path.  Seek to follow. Trust God’s love especially when it seems naive or impossible. And as much as you are able, keep your feet firmly planted in God’s grace.  God knows you and loves you.

“How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.”  Let it be so.