Category Archives: church

Tax Collector Love

“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:46.

In this verse, Jesus describes “tax-collector” love. What is “tax-collector” love? It’s love that is natural. It’s love that loves its own kind. It’s natural for mothers to love their own babies. It’s natural for the English to love the English (though, it’s also natural for us not to show it!). It’s natural for West Ham fans to love other West Ham fans. It’s natural for Hindus to love Hindus. It’s natural for tax collectors to love tax-collectors. This “tax-collector” love can be sincere and sacrificial. “Tax-collector” love can be willing to put itself out for fellow tax-collectors, when it sees them in need. “Tax-collector” love can be produced by team-building exercises, and by socialising together. It’s built up over time, as you experience the highs and lows of life together. There’s nothing wrong with “tax-collector” love.

But, in this verse, Jesus wants Christians to show a love that is higher than “tax-collector” love. In the context, Jesus call us to love our enemies (v.44). But this raises the question: is the love we have for one another as Christians just another version of “tax collector” love? Is it any different to the way members of the local chess club could start to care for each other, if they tried? I think it’s important to recognise the real danger that believers’ love for one another can, at times, be nothing more than “tax collector” love. It can be based merely on going to shared meetings, singing the same songs, and socialising lots.  So, how do we stop our love being merely “tax-collector” love? The puritan, John Owen, answered that question like this in a catechism that he wrote: we need to be committed to the true worship of God. He points out that the real origin of Christian love isn’t natural but supernatural (or “evangelical”, as he calls it). It comes from our adoption by the same Father, our union with Jesus our elder Brother, and our indwelling by the same Holy Spirit. John Owen says:

“that love which is not built on these principles and foundations [of worshipping the Triune God] is not evangelical, whatever other ground it may have, or occasion it may pretend unto” (p.462, vol 15, Works).

Isn’t that a challenge? What ground is our love for each other built on? Let’s aim to show Ilford a love that is worlds apart from “tax collector” love. How? Well, it won’t be by drumming it up from inside ourselves. It won’t come from simply concentrating on each other, and learning about each other. It won’t come from team building exercises. No, the source of “evangelical” love is God himself. So, let’s give our all to worshipping him. Turn up on Sunday ready to engage with him. Sing your heart out to him. Adore Christ’s grace to you. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. The way to love our brothers and sisters with something higher than “tax collector” love is to give ourselves to God.

Which “news” matters more: Ariana Grande or the evangelical church?

If you open up the BBC website, or look at the news in your Facebook feeds, most of the headlines you see tell you about trivia, like “Five people called the Met Police 8,655 times”, “How do you justify selling a £2 T-shirt?”, and “Athlete bitter over mesh that almost ended career”. If we let the BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, or Al-Jazeera tell us what matters in the world, we’ll quickly discover the church of Christ doesn’t make the cut. I remember when the Guardian website removed the “religion” tab from their homepage. On the BBC website, you can find stories grouped around Politics, Business, Health, Tech, Science, Family & Education, Entertainment & Arts, but nothing on religion! Religion has become invisible.

This isn’t how the Bible wants us to look at the world. As Brad Bitner helpfully reminded us on Sunday, from Psalm 87, the city that matters more than any other isn’t London, New York, or Tokyo, but the city of Zion (a picture of Christ’s church). That city will last forever. Christ’s church should interest us more than anything else.

There’s a great moment in the book of Nehemiah, when Nehemiah is far away in the capital of Persia and meets some Jews. He writes in 1.2: “I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile”. That’s the news Nehemiah really wanted to know. The news he really wanted to hear was what was happening in Zion. That’s what the Bible wants to teach us. We should care much more about how the evangelical church is doing in England or any other part of the world than the latest irrelevance about Ariana Grande!

Here are some links that give helpful news and comment from a Christian perspective with a high view of the Bible. Why not set one of them as your homepage?

Evangelicals Now – a monthly newspaper, edited by John Benton, filling you in on things happening in the British church scene and abroad.

Evangelical Times – another monthly newspaper, edited by Roger Faye, a minister up in Yorkshire.

Affinity – Affinity is a grouping of conservative evangelical churches that formed under the influence of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It represented the desire for church unity between Christians rooted in a shared commitment to the gospel and God’s word (in contrast to the ecumenical movement, which promoted unity at the expense of truth).